385 Wash'n St. Boston
It looks to me," said Dr. Syn, " uncommonly like a King's
A SMUGGLER TALE OF THE ROMNEY
GARDEN CITT NEW YORK
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
Co'pynght, 1915, hy
DOUBLEDAY, PaGE & CoMPANY
All rights reserved, including that of
translation into foreign Languages^
including the Scandinavian
1. Dymchurch-under- the- wall 3
2. The Coming of the King's Frigate 8
3. The Coming of the King's Men 14
4. The Captain 25
5. A Bottle of Alsace Lorraine 32
6. Doctor Syn Takes Cold 39
7. Clegg the Buccaneer 45
8. Dogging the Schoolmaster 56
9. The End of Sennacherib Pepper 65
10. Doctor Syn Gives Some Advice 70
11. The Court House Inquiry 77
12. The Captain Objects 82
13. The End of the Inquiry 91
14. At the Vicarage 97
15. A Landed Proprietor Sets Up a Gallows Tree . 101
16. The Schoolmaster's Suit 112
17. The Doctor Sings a Song 119
18. Behind the Shutters 126
19. The Captain's Nightmare 129
20. A Terrible Investigation 133
21. The Bo'sun's Story 139
22. A Curious Breakfast Party 145
23. A Young Recruit 158
24. The Coffin-Maker Has a Visitor 172
25. The Sexton Speaks 178
26. The Devils' Tiring House 190
27. The Scarecrow's Legion 196
28. The Fight at Mill House Farm 205
29. Captain Collyer Entertains an Attorney from Rye 217
30. Doctor Syn Has a "Call" 224
31. A Certain Tree Bears Fruit 234
32. The Captain's Experiment 240
33. Adventures in Watchbell Street 246
34. A Military Lady-killer Prepares for Battle . . 263
35. Scylla and Charybdis 270
36. Holding the Pulpit 279
37. The Dead Man's Throttle . 288
38. Dymchurch-under- the- wall 297
39. Echoes 300
TO THOSE who have small knowledge of Kent
let me say that the fishing village of Dym-
church-under-the-wall lies on the south coast
midway between two of the ancient Cinque ports, Rom-
ney and Hythe.
In the days of George III, with Trafalgar still un-
fought, our coast watchmen swept with keen glasses
this broad bend of the Channel; watched not for
smugglers (for there was little in Dymchurch to attract
the smuggler, with its flat coastline open all the way
from Dover cliffs around Dungeness to Beachy Head),
but for the French men-o'-war.
In spite of being perilously open to the dangers of
the French coast, Dymchurch was a happy little village
in those days — aye, and prosperous, too, for the Squire,
Sir Antony Cobtree, though in his younger days a wild
and reckless adventurer, a gambler and a duellist, had,
of late years, resolved himself into a pattern Kentish
squire, generous to the village, and so vastly popular.
Equally popular was Doctor Syn, the vicar of Dym-
church: a pious and broad-minded cleric, with as great
4 DOCTOR SYN
a taste for good Virginia tobacco and a glass of some-
thing hot as for the penning of long sermons which
sent every one to sleep on Sundays. Still, it was clearly
his duty to deliver these sermons, for, as I have said, he
was a pious man, and although his congregation for the
most part went to sleep, they were at great pains not to
snore, because to offend the old Doctor would have been
a lasting shame.
The little church was old and homely, within easy
cry of the sea; and it was pleasant on Sunday evenings,
during the Doctor's long extempore prayers, to hear
the swish and the lapping and continual grinding of the
waves upon the sand.
But church would come to an end at last, as most
good things will, although there was a large proportion
of the congregation — especially among the younger
members — who considered that they could have even
too much of a good thing.
The heavy drag of the long sermon and never-ending
prayers was lifted, however, when the hymns began.
There was something about the Dymchurch hymns
that made them worth singing. True, there was no
organ to lead them, but that didn't matter, for Mr.
Rash, the schoolmaster — a sallow, lantern-jawed young
man with a leaning toward music — would play over the
tune on a fiddle, when led by the Doctor's sonorous
voice, and seconded by the soul-splitting notes of Mipps,
the sexton, the choir, recruited entirely from seamen
whose voices had been cracked these many years at the
tiller, would roll out some sturdy old tune like a giant
paean, shaking the very church with its fury, and sound-
ing more like a rum -backed capstan song than a re-
spectable, God-fearing hymn. They felt it was worth
while kneeling through those long, long prayers to have
a go at the hymns. The Doctor never chose solemn
ones, or, if he did, it made no odds, for just the same
were they bellowed like a chanty, and it was with a
long-drawn note of regret that the seafaring choir
drawled out the final Amen.
Very often when a hymn had gone with more spirit
than usual the Doctor would thump on the desk of the
three-decker, addressing the choir with a hearty, "Now,
boys, that last verse once again," and then, turning to
the congregation, he would add: "Brethren, for the
glory of God and for our own salvation we will sing
the — er — the last two verses once again.'* Whereat
Mr. Rash would scrape anew upon the fiddle. Doctor
Syn would pound out the rhythm with a fist banging on
the pulpit side, and after him would thunder the sea
salts from the choir with an enthusiasm that bade fair
to frighten hell itself.
When they had hardly a note left in their bodies, the
service would be rounded off by Doctor Syn, and the
congregation would gather in little groups outside the
church to bid him a good-night. But Doctor Syn
would take some minutes changing his black gown for
6 DOCTOR SYN
his cloth surcoat; besides, there was the collection to be
counted and entered into the book, and a few words
of parochial business with the sexton, but at last it would
be all finished and he would come forth to receive the
homage of the parish. He would be accompanied by
Sir Antony, who was warden as well as squire and a
regular churchgoer, as the well-thumbed pages of a
large prayer-book in the family pew could prove. Be-
stowing a cheery word here and a kindly nod there, the
gentlemen would pass on to the Court House, where,
after a hearty supper. Doctor Syn would metaphorically
lay aside his robes of righteousness, and over a long pipe
of his favourite tobacco and a smoking bowl of bishop,
with many an anecdote of land and ,sea, make the jolly
squire laugh till his sides ached, for he possessed to a
lively extent that happy knack of spinning a good yarn,
having travelled far and read much, albeithe wasaparson.
And while the vicar entertained his patron at the
Court House, Mr. Mipps in a like manner held court
behind the closed doors of the old "Ship Inn." Here,
with his broken clay pipe asmoke like a burning chimney
and with eminent peril of singeing the tip of his nose,
he would recount many a tale of wild horror and ad-
venture, thoroughly encouraged by Mrs. Waggetts, the
landlady, who had perceived the sexton's presence to be
good for trade; and thus it was that by working his
imagination to good effect Doctor Syn's parochial
factotum was plied with many a free drink at the ex-
pense of the "Ship." The little sexton was further
encouraged into yarning because it gratified his vanity
to see that they all believed in him. It was exhilarat-
ing to know that he really made their flesh creep. He
felt a power and chuckled in his heart when he saw his
audience swallowing his exaggerations for gospel as
easily as he himself could swallow rum, for Mipps liked
rum — ^he had served for a great part of his life as a ship's
carpenter and had got the taste for it — and so as a
seasoned traveller they respected him, for what he
hadn't seen of horrors in the far-off lands — well, the
whole village would have readily staked their wigs was
not worth seeing.
THE COMING OF THE KING*S FRIGATE
NOW Doctor Syn was very fond of the sea, and
he was never far away from it. Even in winter
time he would walk upon the sea-wall with a
formidable telescope under his arm, his hands thrust
deep into the pockets of a long sea-coat, and his old
black three-cornered parson's hat cocked well forward
and pulled down over his eyes. And although the
simple old fellow would be mentally working out his
dry-as-dust sermons, he would be striding along at a
most furious speed, presenting to those who did not
know him an altogether alarming appearance, for in
tune to his brisk step he would be humming the first
verse of an old-time sea chanty that he had picked up
from some ruffianly seadog of a parishioner; and as he
strode along, with his weather eye ever on the lookout
for big ships coming up the Channel, the rough words
would roll fron his gentle lips with the most perfect
" Oh, here's to the feet that have walked the plank,
Yo ho! for the dead man's throttle,
And here's to the corpses floating round in the tank,
And the dead man's teeth in the bottle."
THE COMING OF THE KING'S FRIGATE 9
He was as proud of this song as if he had written it
himself, and it was a continual source of amusement to
the fishermen to hear him sing it, which he frequently
did of an evening in the parlour of the old Ship Inn
when he went there for a chat and a friendly pipe;
for Doctor Syn was, as I have said, broad-minded, and
held views that would certainly have been beyond those
of the diocesan dignitaries. The very daring of a par-
son drinking with the men in a public inn had a good
effect, he declared, upon the parish, for a good parson,
as a good sailor, should know when he has had enough.
The squire would back him up in this, and there they
would both sit every evening laughing and talking with
the fishermen, very often accompanying some crew
down to the beach to help them launch their boat — and
of course all this added to their popularity. But on
Sunday nights they dined at the Court House, leaving
the field open for the redoubtable Mipps, who, as has
been said, took full advantage of it.
Now the ungainly little sexton had a great admirer
in the person of Mrs. Waggetts, the landlady of the
Ship. Her husband had been dead for a number of
years, and she was ever on the lookout for another.
She perceived in the person of Mipps her true lord and
master. He was enterprising, he had also money of
his own, for he was parish undertaker as well as sexton,
and ran from his small coflSn shop in the village every
trade imaginable. You could buy anything, from a
10 DOCTOR SYN
bottle of pickles to a marlin spike in that dirty little
store, and get a horrible anecdote thrown in with your
bargain from the ready lips of the old fellow, who would
continue to hammer away at an unfinished coflSn as he
talked to you.
But the burning passion that smouldered in the breast
of the Ship landlady was in no way shared by the little
"Missus Waggetts," he would say, *'folk in the death
trade should keep single; they gets their fair share of
misery, Lord above knows, in these parts with the deaths
so uncommon few."
"Well," Mrs. Waggets would sigh, "I often wish as
how it had been me that had been took instead of
Waggetts. I fair envy him lying up there all so peace-
ful like, just a-rottin' slowly along of his coflfin."
But the sexton would immediately fly into a rage
with: "Waggetts' coffin rottin', did you say, Missus
Waggetts.'^ Not mine. I undertook Waggetts, I'd
have you remember, and I don't undertake to rot. I
loses money on my coffins. Missus Waggetts. I under-
takes, ma'am, undertakes to provide a suitable affair
wot'll keep out damp and water, and cheat worm, grub,
slug, and slush."
"Nobody could deny. Mister Mipps," the landlady
would answer in a conciliatory tone, "as how you're a
good undertaker. Any one with half an eye could see
as how you knocks 'em up solid."
THE COMING OF THE KING'S FRIGATE 11
But Mipps didn't encourage Mrs. Waggetts when
she was pleased to flatter, so he would take himself off
in high dudgeon to avoid her further attentions.
This actual conversation took place one November
afternoon, and the sexton, after slamming the inn door
to give vent to his irritation, hurried along the sea-wall
toward his shop, comforting himself that he could sit
snug inside a coffin and cheer himself up with hammer-
On the way he met Doctor Syn, who was standing
silhouetted against the skyline with his telescope fo-
cussed upon some large vessel that was standing in off
*'Ah, Mr. Mipps," said the cleric, handing his tele-
scope to the sexton, "tell me what you make of that.'^"
Mipps adjusted the lens and looked. "The devil!"
"I beg your pardon.^^" said the Doctor. "What did
you say .^"
One of the King's preventer men had come out of his
cottage and was approaching them.
"I don't make no head nor tale of it," replied the
sexton. "Perhaps you do, sir.^"
"Well, it looks to me," continued the parson, "it —
looks — to — me — uncommonly like a King's frigate.
Can't you make out her guns on the port side.'^"
"Yes! "cried the sexton; "I'll be hanged if you're
not right, sir; it's a damned King's ship as ever was."
12 DOCTOR SYN
"Mr. Mipps," corrected the parson, **again I must
ask you to repeat your remark."
"I said, sir," replied the sexton, meekly handing
back the glass, "that you're quite right: it's a King's
ship, a nice King's ship!"
"And she's standing in, too," went on the parson.
"I can make her out plainly now, and, good gracious!
she's lowering a long-boat!"
"Oh!" said Mr. Mipps, "I wonder wot that's for.^"
"A revenue search," volunteered the preventer.
Mipps started. He hadn't seen the preventer.
"Hello!" he said, turning round; "didn't know you
was there. Sir Francis Drake. What do you make of
that there ship.^"
"A King's frigate," replied the preventer man.
"She's sending a boat's crew ashore."
"What for.f^" asked the sexton.
"I told you: a revenue search; to look for smugglers."
"Smugglers," laughed the parson, "here in Dym-
"Aye, sir, so they say. Smugglers here in Dym-
"God bless my soul!" exclaimed the parson incred-
"How silly!" said the sexton.
"That remains to be seen. Mister," retorted the
"What do you say.^^" said the sexton.
THE COMING OF THE KING'S FRIGATE 13
**I say, Mister, it remains to be seen."
"'Course it does!" went on the sexton. "Let's
have another blink at her. Well," he said at length,
closing the telescope with a snap, and returning it,
"Eang's ship or no, they looks to me more like a set of
mahogany pirates, and I'm a-goin'to lock up the church.
King's men's one thing, but havin' the plate took's
another, and one that I don't fancy, being held respon-
sible; so good afternoon, sir" — touching his hat to the
vicar — "and good afternoon to you, Christopher
Columbus." And with this little pleasantry, which
struck him as being the height of humour, the grotesque
little man hopped off at high speed in the direction of
"Odd little man that, sir," said the preventer.
"Very odd little man," said the vicar.
THE COMING OF THE KING's MEN
MEANTIME the little sexton had arrived,
breathless and panting, at the inn. Here he
was accosted with a breezy, "Hello, Mr.
Mipps, where's the Doctor?" The speaker was Denis
Cobtree the only son of the squire.
This young worthy of some eighteen summers was
being prepared in the paths of learning by the vicar
with a view to his entering the university; but Denis,
like his father before him, cared very little for books,
and the moment the Doctor's back was turned, off he
would slip to talk to some weather-beaten seaman, or
to attempt a flirtation with Imogene, the dark-haired
girl who assisted the landlady at the inn.
"Just been talkin' to the vicar on the sea-wall," said
Mipps, hurrying past into the parlour and calling
loudly for Mrs. Waggetts.
"What do you want?" said that good lady, issuing
from the kitchen with a teapot in her hand. Tea was
the luxury she indulged in.
"A word," answered the sexton, pushing her back
into the kitchen and shutting the door behind him.
THE COMING OF THE KING'S MEN 15
"Whatever is it?" asked the landlady in some alarm.
"What's the time?" demanded the sexton.
"A quarter to four," replied Mrs. Waggetts, turning
"Good!" said the sexton. "School will be closing in
a minute or two, so send Imogene round there to ask
Mr. Rash to step across lively as soon as he's locked up.
But no" — he added thoughtfully — "I forgot: Rash is a
bit struck on the girl and they'll linger on the way; send
young Jerk, the potboy."
"Jerk's at school hisself," said Mrs. Waggetts.
"Then you go," retorted the sexton.
"No," faltered the landlady. "It's all right, I'll
send the girl; for she can't abide Rash, so I'll be bound
she won't linger. And while she's gone I'll brew you a
nice cup of tea."
"Throw your tea to the devil," snarled the sexton.
"One 'ud think you was a diamond duchess the way
you consumes good tea. When shall I knock into your
skull that tea's a luxury — a drink wot's only meant
for swells? Perhaps you don't know what a power of
money tea costs!"
"Come, now," giggled the landlady, "not to us.
Mister Mipps. Not the way we gets it."
"I don't know what you means," snapped the wary
sexton. "But I do wish as how you'd practise a-keep-
in' your mouth shut, for if you opens it much more
that waggin' tongue of yours'll get us all the rope."
16 DOCTOR SYN
"Whatever is the matter?" whimpered the land-
"Will you do as I tell you?" shrieked the sexton.
**0h, Lord!" cried Mrs. Waggetts, dropping the
precious teapot in her agitation and running out of the
back door toward the school. Mipps picked up the
teapot and put it on the table; then lighting his short
clay pipe he waited by the window.
In the bar sat Denis Cobtree, making little progress
with a Latin book that was spread open on his knee.
From the other side of the counter Imogene was watch-
She was a tall, slim, wild creature, this Imogene,
dressed as a fisher, with a rough brown skirt and a
black fish blouse, and she wore neither shoes nor stock-
ings. Her hair was long and her eyes black. She had
no parents living, for her father — none other than the
notorious pirate Clegg — had been hanged at Rye —
hanged publicly by the redcoats for murder; and the
mother — well, no one knew exactly who the mother
was, Clegg having lived a wild and roving life; but it
was evident that she must have been a southerner,
from the complexion and supple carriage of this girl —
probably some island woman of the Southern Seas.
Imogene was a great favourite with all the men on
account of her good looks and her dauntless courage
when on the boats at sea; for she loved the sea and was
wonderful upon it — ^her dark eyes flashing, her hair blow-
THE COMING OF THE KING'S MEN 17
ing wild, and her young bosom heaving with the thrill
of fighting the waves.
Imogene liked Denis because he was nice to her, and,
besides, he made her laugh : he was so funny. His ways
were so funny, his high manners were so very funny,
but his shyness attracted her most.
He was shy now because they were alone, and the
boy knew that she was watching him; so he made a
feint of studying his book of Latin, but Imogene could
see that his mind was not on his reading.
"You don't get on very fast, Mr. Denis," she said.
Denis looked up from the book and laughed. "No,"
he said, "not very, I'm afraid; I'm not very fond of
"What are you fond of.^" said the girl, leaning across
the bar on her bare elbows.
"Oh, what a chance to say *you'!" thought the
young man; but somehow the words wouldn't come, so
he stammered instead: "Oh, nothing much. I like
horses rather; yes, I like riding."
"Is that all.?" said the girl.
"About all," said the boy.
"Mr. Rash, the schoolmaster, tells me that he likes
riding," went on the girl mischievously; "he also likes
books; he reads very fast, much faster than you do."
"Not Latin books, I'll be bound," said young Denis,
starting up scarlet with rage, for he hated the school-
master, in whom he saw a possible rival to the girl's
18 DOCTOR SYN
affection. "And as for riding," he cried, "a pretty
fellow that to talk of riding, when he doesn't know the
difference 'tween a filly and a colt. He sits on an old
white scrag-bones, jogs along the road at the rate of
dyke water, and calls it riding. Put the fool on a horse
and he'd be skull under the hoofs before he'd dug his
heels in. The man's a coward, too. I've heard tales
of the way he uses the birch only on the little boys.
Why, if they'd any sense they'd all mutiny and kick
him round the schoolhouse."
" You're very hard on the schoolmaster, Mr. Denis,"
said the girl.
'* You don't like him, do you.^" asked the boy seriously.
But the girl only laughed, for into the bar-parlour
had come Mrs. Waggetts, accompanied by the gentle-
man under discussion, and followed by young Jerk, the
Jerry Jerk, though only a lad of a dozen years,
possessed two excellent qualifications : pluck and a head
like a bullet. He had got through his schooling so far
without a taste of the birch: not that he hadn't deserved
it, but the truth was — Mr. Rash was afraid of him, for
he once had rapped the little urchin very severely on
the head with his knuckles, so hard, indeed, that the
blood had flowed freely, but not from Master Jerk's
head — oh, no : from the teacher's knuckles — upon which
young Jerry had burst into a peal of laughter, stoutly
THE COMING OF THE KING'S IVIEN 19
declaring before the whole class that when he grew up
he intended to be a hangman, just for the pleasure of
pulling the bolt for the schoolmaster. So ever after
Jerry went by the name of *' Hangman Jerk," and when-
ever the pale, washy eye of the sandy-haired Mr. Rash
fell on him, the schoolmaster pictured himself upon a
ten-foot gallows with that fiend of a youngster adjust-
ing the running noose around his scraggy neck.
This young ruffian, entering on the heels of the
schoolmaster, and treading on them hard at every step,
took over the bar from the fish girl, Mr. Rash remarking
with a show of sarcasm that "he hoped he didn't in-
terrupt a pleasant conversation, and that if he did
he was more sorry than he could say to Mr. Denis
Denis replied that he shared the schoolmaster's
sorrow himself with a full heart, but the door being
open, he — the schoolmaster — could easily go out as
quickly as he had come in. At this young Jerk let fly
a loud guffaw and doubled himself up behind the bar,
laughing. Upon this instant the conversation was
abruptly interrupted by the head of Mr. Mipps appear-
ing round the kitchen door, inquiring whether it was
their intention to keep him waiting all night.
*' Quite right, IVIr. ^Vlipps, quite right!" retorted the
schoolmaster, and then turning to Imogene, he said:
"Mr. Mipps wants us at once." Denis was about to
make an angry retort, but Imogene passed him and went
20 DOCTOR SYN
into the kitchen, followed by Mrs. Waggetts and the
sandy-haired Rash, that gentleman carefully shutting
the door behind him.
Denis now found himself alone with young Jerk. The
would-be hangman was helping himself to a thimble of
rum, and politely asked the squire's son to join him;
but Denis refused with a curt: "No, I don't take
"No.^" replied the lad of twelve years. "Oh, you
should. When I feels regular out and out, and gets fits
of the morbids, you know, the sort of time when you
feels you may grow up to be the hanged man and not
the hangman, I always takes to myself a thimble of
neat rum. Rum's the drink for Britons, Mister Cobtree.
Rum's wot's made all the best sailors and hangmen in
"If you go on drinking at this rate," replied Denis,
"you'll never live to hang that schoolmaster."
"Oh," answered Jerry thoughtfully, "oh. Mister
Denis, if I thought there was any truth in that, I'd
give it up. Yes," he went on with great emphasis, as
if he were contemplating a most heroic sacrifice, "yes,
I'd give up even rum to hang that schoolmaster, and it's
a hanging what'll get him, and not old Mipps, the coflSn
Denis laughed at his notion and crossed to the
kitchen door listening. " What can they be discussing in
there so solemnly.^" he said, more to himself than to his
THE COMING OF THE KING'S MEN 21
companion. But Jerry Jerk tossed off the pannikin of
rum, clambered on the high stool behind the bar, and
leaned across the counter, fixing Denis with a glance
full of meaning.
"Mister Cobtree," he whispered fearfully, "you are
older than I am, but I feel somehow as if I can give you
a point or two, because you've got sense. I'm a man of
Kent, I am, and I'm going to be a hangman sooner or
later, but above all I belongs to the Marsh and under-
stands her, and them as understands the Marsh — well,
the Marsh understands them, and this is what she says
to them as understands her : * Hide yourself like I do
under the green, until you feels you're ready to be real
mud.' I takes her advice, I do; I'm under the green, I
am, but I can be patient, because I knows as how some
day I'll be real dirt. You can't be real dirt all at once;
so keep green till you can; and if I has to keep green for
years and years, I'll get to mud one day, and that'll be
the day to hang that Rash and cheat old Mipps of his
body." And to encourage himself in this resolve Jerry
took another thimbleful of rum.
"I'm afraid I can't follow you," said Denis.
"Don't try to," repHed the youngster, "don't try to.
You'll get it in time. The Marsh'll show you. She
takes her own time, but she'll get you out of the green
some day and ooze you up through the sluices, and then
you'll be a man o' Kent, and no mistaking you."
Denis, not able to make head or tail of this effusion,
22 DOCTOR SYN
laughed again, which brought Jerry Jerk with a bound
over the bar.
" See here, Mister Cob tree," he hissed, coming close to
him; "I likes you; you're the only one in the village I
does like. Oh, I'm not wanting anything from you;
I'm just speaking the truth — you're the only one in the
village I haven't hanged in my mind, and, what's more
to the point, you won't blab if I tell you (but there, I
know you won't), you're the only one in the village I
couldnH get hanged F^
"What on earth do you mean?" said the squire's
"What I've said," replied the urchin, "just what I've
said, and not another word do you get from me but this :
listen! Do you hear that sexton in there a-mumbling?
Well, what's he mumbling about? Ah, you don't know,
and I don't know (leastways not exactly), but there's one
who does. Come over here," and he led Denis to the
back window and pointed out over Romney Marsh. "She
knows, that there Marsh. She knows everything about
this place, and every place upon her. Why, I'd give up
everything I've got or shall get in this world, every-
thing — except that schoolmaster's neck — to know all
she knows, 'cos she knows everything, Mister Cob tree,
everything, she does. In every house there's murmur-
ings and mumblings a-going on, and in every dyke out
there there's the same ones, the very same ones a-
going. You can hear 'em yourself, Mister Cobtree, if
THE COMING OF THE KING'S MEN 23
you stands amongst 'em. You try. But, oh. Mister
Denis" — and he grabbed his arm imploringly — "don't
try to understand them dykes at night. She don't
talk then, she don't; she does — she just does then. She
does all wot the mumbles and murmurs have whis-
pered to do; and it's death on the Marsh at night. I
found that out," he added proudly. "Do you know
"How?" queried Denis.
" By going out on her in the day, and gradually getting
used to wot she says; that's how; and that's the only
Just then a most infernal noise arose from the front
of the inn, and before Denis had disengaged himself
from the earnest clutches of his guardian angel, and
before the murmurs of ]Mr. IVIipps had ceased in the
kitchen, the bar was swarming with seamen — sailors —
rough mahogany men with pigtails and brass rings,
smelling of tar and, much to the admiration of Jerk,
reeking of rum, filling the room with their jostling,
spitting, and laughing, and their calls on the potboy to
serve 'em with drink. But their entrance was so sudden,
their appearance so startling, and their behaviour so
alarming, that the young hangman was for the moment
off his guard, for there he stood open-mouthed and
awestruck, watching the giants help themselves freely
from the great barrels. To Denis they had come with
no less surprise. He had seen preventer men before;
24 DOCTOR SYN
he had many friends among the fishermen, but these
were real sailors, men-o'-war, who had lived through a
hundred sea-fights, and seen hellfire on the high seas —
real sailors, King's men. Yes, the King's men had come
JUST as suddenly as the pandemonium had begun,
just so suddenly did it cease, for there strode
through the door a short, thick-set man, with a
bull neck and a red face, a regular rough fighting dog,
who, by his dress and the extraordinary effect he pro-
duced upon the men, Denis and Jerk at once knew to be
"Bo'sun," he said in a thick voice, addressing one of
the sailors, "in a quarter of an hour pipe the men out-
side the inn, and we'll see to the billeting. Meantime
make 'em pay for their drinks and no chalking. Hi,
youngster!" he cried, catching hold of young Jerk by
the ear, "if you're the potboy, tumble round behind
and look after your job." Jerk, mentally consigning
him to the gibbet, did as he was ordered, for his ear was
"And now, sir," went on the officer, addressing
himself to Denis, "is there anyone in this law-forsaken
hole who can answer questions in King's English .?"
"Certainly, sir," said Denis proudly, "if they are
asked with a civil tongue. I am Denis Cobtree, and
26 DOCTOR SYN
my father, the squire, is the best-known man on Romney
"Then," ordered the seadog curtly, "fetch him along
here quick ! "
"Really, sir," retorted Denis hotly, "I do not think
you would afford him sufficient interest. He has not
the honour of your acquaintance, and I am bound to
consider that he'll have no great zeal to make it!"
"Nor I, neither," said Mr. Mipps, who had been
looking round the kitchen door. "I don't like his
The infuriated officer was inside the kitchen like a
hurricane, glaring at the little sexton with all the con-
densed fury of the British navy.
"What's this.^" he said, addressing himself again to
Denis, who had followed him into the kitchen to be
quit of the crowd of seamen. "I suppose you'll tell me
that this shrivelled up little monkey is a squire's son
"A squire's son!" repeated the sexton. "Oh, well,
if I is, I ain't come into my title yet."
"Don't you play the fool with me, sir!" thundered
the King's man.
"And don't you try the swagger with me, sir ! "volleyed
back the sexton.
"The swagger with you, sir?" exploded the officer.
"Right, sir," exclaimed the sexton, "that's what I
said — the swagger, sir!"
THE CAPTAIN 27
But the other swallowed his wrath and announced
"I am Captain Colly er. Captain Howard Colly er,
coast agent and commissioner; come ashore to lay a
few of ycu by the heels, I've no doubt."
"Oh! is that all?" replied the sexton with a sigh of
relief. "Well, there, I have been mistook. I'd quite
made up my mind that you was the Grand Turk or at
least the Lord Rear Admiral of the Scilly Isles."
Ignoring the sexton's humour, the captain turned to
Denis and said : ' ' Who is this person ? ' '
But Mipps was not so easily crushed, and he cried:
"A man to be looked up to in these parts. I under-
takes for the district. The only one wot does it for
miles round. They all comes to me, rich and poor alike,
I tells you; for they know that Mipps knocks 'em up
"Knocks what up solid.^^" demanded the captain
" Coffins up solid," replied the sexton promptly.
|( "Coffins!" repeated the captain. "Oh, you're a
coffin-maker, are you.^ Yes, you look it. Thought you
might be the landlord of this run-amuck old inn here.
That's the man I want. \Miere can I find him.^"
Mipps pointed out of the window toward the church.
"Up in the churchyard," he said.
"What's he doing in the churchyard.'^" demanded the
28 DOCTOR SYN
Mipps came right up to him and whispered in this ear
the significant word, "Worrmnps!"
** What? " shouted the captain, who didn't understand.
**Sh!" said Mipps, pointing across at Mrs. Waggetts,
who had begun to weep into her apron. "He's a-keep-
in' 'em out."
"Keeping who out.'^" snapped the captain.
* ' I keep teUing y ou, " repHed the sexton . * ' Worrumps ! ' '
"Danged if I can make out what you say." The
captain's patience was well-nigh exhausted. "Go and
fetch the landlord!" he ordered.
"Oh, would that he could," sobbed Mrs. Waggetts.
"Oh, dear, oh, dear!"
The captain turned on her with an oath. "What's
the matter with you, my good woman?" he said.
"That good woman is the landlord," volunteered
"You exasperating little liar!" shouted the captain,
seizing the enigmatical sexton and shaking him violently;
"you said the landlord was in the churchyard a minute
"A minute ago!" cried the breathless undertaker.
"Why, he's been there a year and a half, and there he'll
stop till as wot time as they gets him. Though I must
say I gave him the best pine and knocked him up solid
with my own hands —
"Released from Missus Waggetts
I left him to the maggots —
THE CAPTAIN 29
and there's Waggetts, and she's the landlord," and the
sexton, chuckling with delight at his ready wit, pointed
to the still weeping landlady.
"Well, ma'am," said the captain, coming to the
point at once, "you must really blame yourself if your
scores are not settled. A little potboy who has to
stand on tiptoe to look over the bar is not the sort of
person to prevent people helping themselves; and that's
what my seadogs are doing now — helping themselves."
Mrs. Waggetts, with a scream, rushed from the
kitchen, followed by Imogene, the sexton and the
schoolmaster being glad enough to follow their example
and so escape from the bullying captain, who was now
left alone with Denis.
"Now, then, Mr. Squire's son, listen to me," he said.
"My name is Denis Cobtree," returned the young
man. "The name Cobtree is well enough known upon
the Marsh to be remembered by a sea captain."
"Look here, young fellow," said the officer warningly,
"I am here representing the law, commissioned by
"I have heard that the King's taste may be called in
question," Denis replied.
"I can prove to you otherwise," returned the captain,
"for it so happens that Captain Colly er holds the ma-
jority for stringing up smugglers. I have sent more
from the coast to the sessions than any of his Majesty's
agents. And stap my vitals, I believe I have landed on a
30 DOCTOR SYN
perfect hornets' nest here. Now tell me, sir," he went
on with that tone of authority that Denis found so ut-
terly aggressive, **what do you know of the smuggling
business in these parts? I have small doubt but that
your father finds the business a pretty valuable asset to
his land revenues, eh? I warrant me half goes to your
own pockets and the rest to the lost cause of the Jaco-
The captain was becoming insulting, so Denis took
great pains to hold his temper in check. "Let me tell
you, sir," he said, "in the first place, my father is no
Jacobite, no, nor yet his father before him. My people
were instrumental in bringing across William of Orange.
Although my father has withdrawn from political
strife, he is still a profound Whig; and on that score he
and I have but Httle sympathy together; for I stoutly
affirm that the Dutchman had no right whatever in
England, and I never lose an opportunity of drinking
to our King over the water, and praying for a speedy
" You just bear in mind, young man," said the captain,
"that the '45 was not so very long ago. I am here to
look for smugglers, not royalists, but there's still a
price on their heads, so you should keep whatever
opinions you may hold to yourself."
" If you are really here to look for smugglers," said
Denis, scorning his threat, "you must first take pains to
curry favour with my father, for he is the head of our
THE CAPTAIN SI
jurisdiction. The Marsh has its own laws, sir; and
you will find to your inconvenience, I fear, that the
'Leveller of the Marsh Scotts'* is a big power."
"I hold my commission from the King's Admiralty,
and that's enough for me," laughed the captain, "and
for Marshmen, too, as you'll find."
But Denis replied: "Possibly, sir, you have not heard
of the old saying, that *The world is divided into five
parts — Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Romney
Marsh.' We are independent on the Marshes."
"The Act of Parliament," retorted the captain
largely, "brought in by the late King William against
all smugglers will cook that goose, young sir."
"Ah, well," said Denis finally, "it's no odds to me;
but let me tell you this: Your King George may rule
Whitehall, but my father rules Romney Marsh," and
humming an old royalist tune, much to the annoyance
of the captain, the young man sauntered out of the inn.
* The old title of Head Magistrate on the Marsh.
A BOTTLE OF ALSACE LORRAINE
LEFT to himself, the captain rapidly examined
the kitchen; then going to the door that led to
-^ the bar-parlour, he called out: "Bo'sun, come
in here, and bring that mulatto with you."
The bo'sun answered with alacrity, pushing before
him into the kitchen an altogether horrible apparition :
a thin mulatto in the dress of a navy cook. His skin
was cracked like parchment and drawn tightly over the
prominent cheekbones. His black eyes shone brightly,
and the lids turned up at the corners like those of a
Chinaman. The unusual brilliance of these eyes may
have been accounted for by the scrags of pure white
hair that grew from the skull. These were bound at
the back into a thin pigtail, leaving the sides of the
head bare, and it must have been this that gave him
that curiously revolting look, for the foreigner had no
ears. Another terrible thing about him was that he
could not speak, for his tongue had been cut out by the
roots. He had evidently suffered much, this cook.
"Job Mallet," said the captain, when the door was
shut, ** we have now got this room to ourselves, and as
A BOTTLE OF ALSACE LORRAINE 33
there is no time like the present, turn that white-haired
old spider of yours on to the floor and walls. This
panelling seems likely."
"The bo'sun approached the mulatto, and jabbered
some weird lingo into his ear-hole, which immediately
made the uncouth figure hop about the room, spreading
his lean arms along the panels, which he kept tapping
with his fingers, at the same time executing a curious
tattoo with his bare feet upon the floor. In this fashion
he encircled the room twice, apparently without achiev-
ing any result. In the corner of the room was fixed a
wooden table with a heavy flap which reached nearly to
the ground. LTpon this table was a large assortment
of cooking utensils, while underneath, almost entirely
hidden by the flap, there reposed a like collection of
buckets, pails, and old saucepans.
The mulatto, after his double journey round the
room, turned his attention to this table. He struck the
flap up and, pushing aside the pots and pans, uttered a
strange, excited gurgle.
**Ha! ha!" said the captain to the bo'sun, "your
spider has caught a fly, eh.^^"
Job Mallet looked under the table and saw the
mulatto pulling desperately at a brass ring that was
fixed to the floor. Pushing him aside, the bo'sun
had pulled up a trap and was descending a flight
of steps before the captain had even locked both the
34 DOCTOR SYN
"What is it?" he whispered; for the bo'sun had
"Here you are, sir," said the sailor, reappearing with
a bottle in his hand. " There's a wine-cellar down there
the size of an admiral's cabin."
"Oh!" replied the captain. "Well, like enough it's
the regular cellar."
"Then why should they be at such pains to hide the
entrance, sir.^^ " returned the bo'sun.
"There's nothing in that," replied the captain. " It's
natural that they don't want every Tom, Dick, and
Harry going into the wine-cellar."
"I suppose it is, sir," agreed the bo'sun, "but it
looks a costly bottle, though it could do with a bit of a
shine," he added, spitting on it and giving it a vigorous
rub with his sleeve.
"Let's look at the label," said the captain. " *Alsace
Lorraine, T\Tiite, Rare 500.' WTiat on earth does '500'
"The date, sir," ejaculated the bo'sun; "it's the date.
My eye ! that's enough to give a man a bad head. It's
over a thousand years old."
"Nonsense, my man," said the captain, laughing.
"It means that this bottle is one of a cargo of ^ve
"Of course," said the bo'sun, slapping his knee.
"What a thundering old idiot I am, to be sure. You're
right, sir, as you always are, for I see the other four
A BOTTLE OF ALSACE LORRAINE 35
hundred and ninety-nine down below there. But," he
added ruefully, "we've got no proof that they're
"We'll soon get that," said the captain, thrusting the
bottle into the capacious skirt pocket of his sea-coat.
"Put these things back, and summon the landlady."
Then the captain unlocked the door and quietly
Coming up quickly from a stooping position near the
keyhole was Mr. Mipps, the sexton.
"You're a fine fellow," he said, not at all put out of
countenance by the captain having found him eaves-
dropping, "a very fine fellow to come lookin' for
smuggling, with a gang o' blasphemous scoundrels wot
kick up more to-do than the Tower of Babel. Look
here, sir, are you coming in to keep order or not? I
only want a word, Yes or No, for I shall go straight
round to the Court House and report you to the squire.
And then p'raps he won't put you and your crew into
the cells there; p'raps he won't — only pWaps, 'cos I'm
dead sure he will."
"What are my boys doing?" laughed the captain.
"Wliat are the little dears not doing?" answered the
sexton, thoroughly angry. "Oh, nothing, I assure you!
Only upsetting the barrels, throwin' about the tankards,
stealin' the drinks, and makin' fun of Missus Waggetts."
"Oh, that's all right," said the captain. "Tell Mrs.
Waggetts to come here."
36 DOCTOR SYN
"You tell worse men than yourself to do your dirty
work," replied the sexton. "Do you think I'm a
powder monkey that I should fetch and carry Missus
Waggetts for you? Fetch her yourself, or send old
fat-sides there," he added, jerking his thumb at the
bo'sun, "or that dear old white-haired admiral wot's
lost his yellow ear-flaps. As for me, I'm a-goin' to the
Court House, and if you don't know what for, you'll
soon learn — you and old fat-sides." The bo'sun made
a grab at him, but Mipps slipped through the crowded
bar and was running up the highroad.
The captain now stepped into the bar. Order was at
once restored. "Now, ma'am," he said to Mrs. Wag-
getts, "while the bo'sun is seeing that your score is paid,
give me a bottle of wine."
"Port or claret, sir?" said the landlady.
"Neither," said the captain. "I have a fancy to try
a bottle of Alsatian. Yes, a white wine from Alsace
But before the captain had time to smack his lips
Mrs. Waggetts replied: "Oh, we don't keep that, sir."
"No?" queried the captain.
"No, indeed, sir," said the landlady. "You see
there's no call for it in these parts. And then the
customs are so high we couldn't afford to stock it for
the few and far betweens as might ask for it. Why, for
my own part, sir, though I've been in the business these
— well, many years now, I've never even heard of it."
A BOTTLE OF ALSACE LORRAINE 37
** Really ! " said the captain. " Well, it's a good wine,
ma'am. Now, bo'sun, pipe the men outside."
"Won't you try a bottle of claret, sir?" said the
landlady with persuasion.
"No," said the captain, "later on, perhaps. I'll see.
By the way, is there any old barn about where I could
quarter my men? I'm loath to billet them on the
"No, I don't know anywhere," returned the land-
lady. "Do you, Mr. Rash.^ Perhaps you'd loan the
schoolhouse to the captain.^^"
"Yes, and give us a holiday for once in a way!"
chimed in the potboy.
"It's not to be thought of," said the schoolmaster,
walking out of the inn.
"No one uses the church on weekdays, I suppose,"
said the captain. "I daresay there's room for them
there, in the vestry or the tower perhaps, or even in the
"Them drunken ruffians in the church!" cried out
young Jerk, pulling a horrified face, and indicating the
rough sailors who were now outside the inn. "You'd
better watch out what you're up to, or you'll have the
vicar on your track."
"I'll tell you where you'll end, my lad," said the
captain, turning on him sharply.
"Where, sir.^^" said young Jerk, looking really in-
38 DOCTOR SYN
"If not upon the scaffold, uncommon near it, I'll be
bound," the captain replied.
"I hope so indeed," thought Hangman Jerk, "and
I hopes it'll be a-fixing the noose around your bull neck."
But he kept this thought to himself, for he suddenly
remembered that the captain could be rather too play-
ful for his liking; so he watched the sailors shouldering
their bundles, falling into line, and eventually swinging
out of the old Ship Inn, followed by the captain.
DOCTOR SYN TAKES COLD
YOU can imagine that the coming of the King's
men caused some stir in Dymchurch; for after
leaving the Ship Inn they were marched round
the village and drawn up in front of the Court House.
Here they waited while the captain knocked upon the
front door and asked for the squire.
"Sir Antony Cobtree is out riding," said the butler.
But at that instant a clattering of hoofs was heard upon
the highway and the squire himself came along at an
easy trot and drew rein before the house. " My faith ! "
he cried, looking from the butler to the captain, and
then at the line of naked cutlasses. "Have the French
landed at last.^^"
"Captain Howard CoUyer of the King's Admiralty,
sir," said the captain, saluting, "and if you are the
squire, very much at your service."
The jolly squire returned the salute, touching his hat
with his riding whip. "Indeed, Captain?" he said,
dismounting. "And I would prefer to be your friend
than your foe so long as you have these sturdy fellows
at your back. Is it the renewed activity of the French
40 DOCTOR SYN
navy that we have to thank for your presence here, or
the coast defence?"
" I should Hke a word with you alone/' said the captain.
"Certainly," returned the squire, throwing the reins
to a groom and leading the way to the house.
They crossed the large hall, and the squire, opening a
door at the far end, invited the captain to enter the library.
There in the recess of the old mullioned window sat
Doctor Syn, deep in a dusty tome that he had taken
from the bookcase.
"Ah, Doctor," said the squire, "they didn't tell me
you were here. No further need to fear the French
fleet. The King's Admiralty has had the kind grace
to furnish us with an officer's complement. Captain
Colly er — Doctor Syn, our vicar."
"Not the Collyer who sank the Lion d^Or at the
mouth of the St. Lawrence River, I suppose.^^" he said,
"The same," returned the captain, highly delighted
that the achievement of his life had been heard of by
the parson. "Captain Howard Collyer then, com-
manding the Resistance, a brigantine of twenty-two
guns. Indeed, sir, the French Government kicked up
such a devil of a row over that little affair that I lost
my command. So now, instead of sinking battleships,
the Admiralty keeps me busy nosing out smugglers; a
poor enough game for a man who has done big things
at sea, but it has its excitements."
DOCTOR SYN TAKES COLD 41
"So I should imagine," said the cleric.
"And what have you come here for?" asked the
"To hang every smuggler on Romney Marsh," said
"Do you believe in ghosts?" said the squire.
"AMiat do you mean?" retorted the captain.
" \Miat I say," returned the squire. " Do you beheve
"Well, I can't say I do," laughed the captain, "for I
have never yet met one."
"No more have I," returned the squire. "But they
say the Marsh is haunted at night. They've said so so
long that people believe it. WTienever a traveller loses
his way on the Marsh and disappears, folk say that the
Marsh witches have taken him. When the harvests
are bad, when the wool is poor, when the cattle are
sicklv, oh, it's alwavs the Marsh witches that are blamed.
They set fire to haystacks, they kill the chickens, they
blast the trees, they curdle the milk, and hold up
travellers and rob them of their purses. In fact all the
vices of the Marsh, really performed by Master Fox, or
]\Iaster Careless, or Master Footpad, are all put down to
the poor Marsh witches, who don't exist except in the
minds of the people. I know the Marshes as well as
any man ever will, and I've never seen a witch, and it's
the very same with smugglers. The whole thing's a
fallacy. I've never caught 'em at it; and I keep a stern
42 DOCTOR SYN
enough eye on my farms, I can tell you. Why, I'm a
positive king, sir. Do you know that if a man working
in the neighbourhood doesn't please me, that I can shut
every door of the Marsh against him? Why, these
farmers are all scared stiff of me, sir. I'd like to see
the man who went against the laws of Romney Marsh.
I can tell you, sir, that I'd soon mark him down."
"You are perhaps too confident, sir," suggested the
"Not a bit of it, sir," exclaimed the squire. "Mind
you I don't trust 'em, oh, Lord, no; I just know 'em to
be honest, because I don't give 'em the chance to be
otherwise. They never know when or where I'll be
turning up. Why, I have a groom in my stables awake
all night in case I want to surprise a farm ten miles
away. Smugglers? Pooh! Rubbish!"
"Then you consider that I am here on a wildgoose
chase?" said the captain.
"Not even that," said the squire; "for you will find
no wild geese to chase. However, I don't think that
you need regret having been sent here, for we can give
you really good entertainment; and I'll bet my head that
after you have stayed with us a week or so you'll be
sending in your papers to the Admiralty, and settling
down on the Marsh as a good Kentish farmer."
"I'm afraid not, sir," laughed the captain.
"Oh, yes, you will," went on the squire. "And I'll
be bound that we'll have you bothering Doctor Syn to
DOCTOR SYN TAKES COLD 4S
put the banns up for you and some country beauty.
\^Tiat do you say, Doctor?"
"Well," chuckled the cleric, entering into the joke,
"if a man wants to marry and settle down, and live
happily ever after, as the saying goes, why, then, Kent's
the place for him. It's a great country, sir, expecially
south and east of the Med way; famous for everything
that goes to make life worth living."
"Yes, take him on the whole," said the squire, "the
King can boast of no greater jewel in the crown of
England than the average man of Kent."
"Well," agreed the captain, "I've heard say that
Kent has fine clover fields, and it's evident to me that
I'm a lucky devil and have fallen into one. But I must
see to the billeting of my men. Perhaps you can ad-
vise me?" But the squire wouldn't hear of business
until the captain had cracked a bottle of wine with them
and promised to lodge himself at the Court House,
Doctor Syn readily placing the large brick-built vicar-
age barn at the disposal of the men.
So having settled all amicably, and promising to
return within the hour for supper, the captain, piloted
by Doctor Syn, and followed by the seamen, proceeded
to inspect the barn; and it was not long before the
sailors had converted it into as jolly an old hall as one
could wish to see, with a great log-fire ablaze in the
stone grate, and a pot of steaming victuals swinging
from a hook above the flames.
44 DOCTOR SYN
"Are you all here?" said the captain to the bo'sun,
before rejoining the Doctor outside the door.
"All except Bill Spiker and the mulatto, sir," re-
turned Job Mallet. "I sent 'em for rum. Here they
are, if I mistake not." And indeed up to the barn
came two seamen carrying a barrel.
"Now," said the captain to Doctor Syn, "I am
ready to return to the Court House."
But the cleric's eyes were fixed on the men carrying
the barrel, who were passing him. "Who's that man?"
he said to the captain, shivering violently, for a cold
fog had risen with the night.
"That's Bill Spiker the gunner," said the captain.
"Do you know him?"
"No — the other, the other," exclaimed the Doctor,
still watching the retreating figures who were now
being received with shouts of welcome from the barn.
"Oh, that fellow's a mulatto," returned the captain;
"useful for investigation work. An ugly enough look-
ing rascal, isn't he? "
"A very ugly rascal," muttered the Doctor, walking
rapidly from the barn in the direction of the Court
"You look cold," remarked the captain as they stood
outside the Court House door.
"Yes. It's a cold night," returned the Doctor.
"WTiy, I declare my teeth are chattering."
CLEGG THE BUCCANEER
THERE was one man who knew Romney Marsh
as well as the squire. This was Sennacherib
Pepper, and, what's more, he knew the Marsh
by night as well as by day, for he w^as the visiting phy-
sician to the Marsh farms, and his work called him to
patients sometimes at night. He had seen curious
things upon the Marsh from his own account, hinting
darkly about the witches and devils that rode on fiery
steeds through the mists. The villagers, of course,
believed his yarns, but the squire poohpoohed them,
and, as it was well known that Sennacherib Pepper was
a hard drinker, some people put his stories down to the
effects of wine. But although he gave no credence
to his tales. Sir Antony rather enjoyed the physician,
and he was a frequent visitor to the Court House.
He had prevailed upon him to stay to supper this
very night, introducing him to the captain as his
dear friend Sennacherib Pepper, the worst master of
physics and the most atrocious liar on Romney
Marsh, for although Sennacherib was a very touchy
old customer and was ever on the brink of losing his
46 DOCTOR SYN
temper, Sir Antony could never resist a joke at his
*' Zounds, sir!" he retorted, "if I were presenting you
to Sir Antony I should most certainly style him the
worst business man upon the Marsh."
"How do you make that out?" cried the squire.
"My dear sir," went on Sennacherib to the captain,
"his tenants rob him at every turn. Everybody but
himself knows that half the wool from his farms finds its
way over to Calais."
"My dear Captain," said Doctor Syn, who was warm-
ing himself at the fireplace, "our good friend Pepper is
repeatedly coming into contact with the old gentleman
himself upon the Marsh. Why, only last year he in-
formed us that he met at least a score of his bodyguard
riding in perfect style and most approved manner across
from Ivychurch on fire-snorting steeds. And how
many witches is it now that you have seen.^ A good
round dozen, I'll be sworn; and they were riding
straddle-legs, a thing that we could hardly credit."
"Well, let us hope," said the physician, "that the
presence of the Ejng's men will frighten the devils
away. I've seen 'em, and I've no wish to see 'em again."
"You can set your mind quite at rest, sir," returned
the captain, "for if as you say their horses breathe fire,
they will afford excellent targets on the flat Marsh.
We'll hail the King's ship and see what ninety good guns
can do for the devils."
CLEGG THE BUCCANEER 47
All through supper was this vein of humorous con-
versation kept up, until when the meal was finished and
pipes alight, and Denis had retired to his room with a
glum face to steer most sorely against his will upon a
course of literature, the conversation gradually drifted
into the Southern Seas, and the captain began telling
stirring tales of Clegg the pirate, who had been hanged
*'I should like to have been at that hanging," he
cried, finishing a tale of horror, *'for the fellow, as you
have just heard, was a bloodthirsty scoundrel."
"So we have always heard," said Doctor Syn; "but
don't you think that some of his exploits may have been
"Not a bit of it," exclaimed the captain; "I believe
everything I hear about that man, except that last
blunder that put his neck into the noose at Rye."
"That is his only exploit about w^hich there is any
certainty," said the physician.
"It was a mistake murdering that revenue man,"
agreed Doctor Syn, "but Clegg was drunk, and threw
all caution to the devil."
"Clegg had been drunk enough before," said the
captain, "and yet he had never made a mistake. No,
he was too clever to be caught in the meshes of a tavern
brawl. Besides, from all we know of his former life, he
would surely have put up a better defence at his trial;
of course he would. You don't tell me that a man who
48 DOCTOR SYN
could terrorize the high seas all that time was going to
let himself swing for a vulgar murder in a Rye tavern."
"But it is a noticeable thing," put in the cleric,
" that all great criminals have made one stupid blunder
that has caused their downfall."
"Which generally means," went on the captain,
"that up to that moment it was luck and not genius
that kept them safe. But we know that Clegg was a
genius. I've had it first hand from high Admiralty
men; from men who have lived in the colonies and
traded in Clegg's seas. The more I hear about that
rascally pirate the more it makes me wonder; and some
day I mean to give the time to clearing up the mystery."
"What mystery?" said the cleric.
"The mystery of how Clegg could persuade another
man to commit wilful murder in order to take his name
upon the scaffold," said the captain. "It takes some
powers of persuasion to accomplish that, you'll agree."
"What on earth do you mean? " said the cleric.
"Simply this," ejaculated the captain, beating the
table with his fist, "that Clegg was never hanged at
There was a pause, and the gentlemen looked at him
with grave faces. Presently the squire laughed. " Upon
my soul, Captain," he said, "you run our friend Sen-
nacherib here uncommon close with staggering state-
ments. I wonder which of you will tell us first that
Queen Anne is not dead."
CLEGG THE BUCCANEER 49
"Queen Anne is dead,'* exclaimed the captain, *' be-
cause she was not fortunate enough to persuade some-
body else to die for her. Now I maintain that this is
exactly what Clegg did do."
"Can you let us have the reasons that led you to this
theory?" said the cleric, interested.
"I don't see why not," replied the captain. "In the
first place, the man hanged at Rye was a short, thick-
set man, tattooed from head to foot, wearing enormous
brass earrings, and his black hair cropped short as a
"That's an exact description of him," said the par-
son, "for, as everybody knows, I visited the poor wretch
in his prison at Rye, and at his desire wrote out his final
and horrible confession."
"Is that so.^" said the captain. "Oh, yes, I remem-
ber hearing of how he was visited by a parson. I
thought it a bit incongruous at the time."
"And so it was," agreed the parson, "for I have never
seen a more unrepentant man go to meet his Maker."
"Well, now," went on the captain, his eyes glistening
with excitement, "I have it on very good authority that
the real Clegg in no way answered this description: he
was a weird -looking fellow; thin faced, thin legs, long
arms, and, what's more to the point, was never tattooed
in his life save once by some unskilled artist who had
tried to portray a man walking the plank w^ith a shark
waiting below. This picture was executed so poorly
50 DOCTOR SYN
that the pirate would never let any one try again. Then
I also have it on the very best evidence that Clegg's
hair was gray, and had been gray since quite a young
man; so that does away with your black, close-cropped
hair. And again I have it that Clegg would never
permit his ears to be pierced for brass rings, affirming
that they were useless lumber for a seaman to carry."
"Don't you think," said the squire, "that all this
was a clever dodge to avoid discovery .^^ "
"A disguise.^" queried the captain. "Yes, I confess
that the same thing occurred to me."
"And might I ask how you managed to obtain your
real description of Clegg .f^" asked the vicar.
"At first," said the captain, "from second or third
sources; but the other day I got first-hand evidence from
a man who had served aboard Clegg's ship, the Imogene.
That ugly-looking rascal who was helping Bill Spiker
carry the rum-barrel. The bo'sun questioned him for
upward of three hours in his queer lingo, and managed
to arrive, by the nodding and shaking of the man's head,
at an exact description of him tallying with mine and
yours" (glancing at Doctor Syn).
"He was one of Clegg's men.? " said the vicar, amazed.
"Then pray, sir, what is he doing in the royal navy.^^ "
"I use him as tracker," replied the captain. "You
know, some of these half-caste mongrels, mixtures of
all the bad blood in the Southern Seas, have remarkable
gifts of tracking. It's positively uncanny the way this
CLEGG THE BUCCANEER 51
rascal can smell out a trapdoor or a hiding-place. He's
invaluable to me on these smuggling trips. I suppose
you've nothing of the sort in this house.^"
"There's a staircase leading to a priest's hole in this
very chimney corner, though you would never guess at
it," returned the squire. "And, what's more, I bet a
guinea that nobody would discover it."
"I'll lay you ten to one that the mulatto will; aye,
and within a quarter of an hour!"
"Done!" cried the squire. "This will be sport;
we'll have him round," and he summoned the butler.
"There's one condition I should have made," said
the captain when the butler opened the door. "The
rascal is dumb and cannot speak a word of English; but
my bo'sun can speak his lingo and will make him under-
stand what we require of him."
"Fetch 'em both round," cried the squire. "Gad-
zooks! it's a new sport this."
The butler was accordingly dispatched with the
captain's orders to the bo'sun that he should step round
at once to the Court House with the mulatto. Mean-
time, Denis was summoned from the paths of learning,
and the terms of the wager having been explained to
him, he awaited in high excitement the coming of the
"How is it that the fellow's dumb?" asked the phy-
"Tongue cut out at the roots, sir," replied the cap-
52 DOCTOR SYN
tain. "He might well be deaf, too, for his ears are
also gone, probably along with his tongue, but he's not
deaf, he understands the bo'sun all right."
"Did you ever find out how he lost them?" asked the
"It was Clegg," replied the captain; "for after having
been tortured in this pleasant fashion he was marooned
upon a coral reef."
"Good God!" said the vicar, going pale with the
thought of it.
"How did he get off?" asked the squire.
"God alone knows," returned the captain.
"Can't you get it out of him in some way?" said the
"Job Mallet, the bo'sun, can't make him understand
some things," said the captain, "but he located the
reef upon which he'd been marooned in the Admiralty
chart, and it's as God-forsaken a piece of rock as you
could wish. No vegetation; far from the beat of ships;
not even registered upon the mercantile maps. As well
be the man in the moon as a man on that reef for all the
chance you'd have to get off."
" But he got off," said the squire. " How? "
"That's just it," said the captain, "how? If you
can find that out you're smarter than Job Mallet, who
seems the only man who can get things out of him."
"By Gad! I'm quite eager to look at the poor
devil!" cried the squire.
CLEGG THE BUCCANEER 53
"So am I," agreed the physician.
"And I'd give a lot to know how he got off that reef,"
said Doctor Syn.
But at that instant the butler opened the door, and
Job Mallet shuffled into the room, looking troubled.
"Where's the mulatto?" said the captain sharply, for
the bo'sun was alone.
"I don't know, sir," answered the bo'sun sheepishly;
" Gone? Where to? " said the captain.
" Don't know, sir," answered the bo'sun. " I see him
curled up in the barn along of the others just afore I
stepped outside to stand watch, and when I went to
wake him to bring him along of me, why, blest if he
"Did you look for him?" said the captain.
"Well, sir, I was a-lookin' for him as far down as to
the end of the field where one of them ditches run,"
said the bo'sun, "when I see something wot fair beat
anything I ever seed afore: it was a regiment of horse,
some twenty of 'em maybe, but if them riders weren't
devils, well, I ain't a seaman."
"What were they like?" screamed Sennacherib.
"Wild-looking fellows on horses wot seemed to snort
out fire, and the faces of the riders and horses were all
moonlight sort of colour, but before I'd shouted, 'Belay
there!' they'd all disappeared in the mist."
"How far away were these riders?" said the captain.
54 DOCTOR SYN
"Why, right on top of me, as it seemed," stammered
"Job Mallet," said the captain, shaking his large
finger at him, "I'll tell you what it is, my man: you've
been drinking rum."
"Well, sir," admitted the seaman, "it did seem
extra good to-night, and perhaps I did take more than
I could manage; though come to think of it, sir, I've
often drunk more than I've swallowed to-night and not
seen a thing, sir."
"You get back to the barn and go to sleep," said the
captain, "and lock the door from the inside; there's no
need to stand watches to-night, and it won't do that
foreign rascal any harm to find himself on the wrong
side of the door for once." Job Mallet saluted and left
"You see what it comes to, Sennacherib," laughed
the squire: "drink too much and you're bound to see
"I don't believe that fellow has drunk too much,"
said the physician, getting up. " But I'm walking home,
and it's late; time I made a start."
"Mind the devils!" laughed the vicar as he shook
"They'll mind me, sir," said Sennacherib as he
grasped his thick stick. And so the supper party broke
up: the squire lighting the captain to his room; Doctor
Syn returning to the vicarage; and Sennacherib Pepper
CLEGG THE BUCCANEER 55
setting out for his lonely walk across the devil-ridden
The window of the captain's room looked out upon
the courtyard; he could see nothing of the sea, nothing
of the Marsh. Now, as these were the two things he
intended to see — aye, and on that very night — he
waited patiently till the house was still; for he con-
sidered that there was more truth in Sennacherib
Pepper's stories than the squire allowed. Indeed, it
was more than likely that the squire disallowed them
for reasons of his own. This he determined to find out.
So half an hour after the squire had bade him good-
night he softly crossed the room to open the door.
But the door was locked on the outside !
DOGGING THE SCHOOLMASTER
N^'OW Jerry lived with his grandparents, and
they were always early to bed. Indeed, by ten
o'clock they were both snoring loudly, while
Jerry would be tucked up in the little attic dreaming of
the gallows and hanging Mr. Rash. Jerry was troubled
a good deal by dreams; but upon this particular night
they were more than usually violent; whether owing to
the great excitement caused by the coming of the King's
men, or due to the extra doses of rum that the youngster
had indulged in, who can say. He dreamt that he was
out on the Marsh chasing the schoolmaster: that was all
very well, quite a pleasant dream to young Jerk and not
at all a nightmare, but unfortunately there were things
chasing Jerry as well, and the nearer he seemed to get to
the flying schoolmaster the nearer got the things behind
him. There was no doubt at all in the dreamer's mind
as to what they were, for they were the Marsh devils
that he had heard about from infancy, the very
demon riders that old Sennacherib Pepper was credited
with having seen. He glanced over his shoulder and
saw them pounding after him, grim riders on most
DOGGING THE SCHOOLIVIASTER 57
ghastly steeds. The noise of the hoofs got nearer and
nearer, and run as he would, he felt that he would never
reach the schoolmaster before he himself was caught by
the demons. Then in the dream the schoolmaster
turned round, and Jerk with a scream saw that what he
had been chasing was no longer the schoolmaster but
the devil himself. So there he was between the demon
riders and the very old gentleman that Doctor Syn
preached about on Sundays. Now, although Jerry
was no coward, he was not quite proof against such a
shock as this, so he just uttered the most appalling
scream and fell into a ditch that had suddenly appeared
before him. The fall into the ditch was very hard, so
hard, indeed, that the sleeper awoke to find that he was
sitting on the floor with the bedclothes on top of him.
But he was still uncertain whether or no he was awake,
for although he rubbed his eyes exceedingly hard he
could still hear the pounding hoofs of the demon horses,
and they were coming nearer. He rubbed his eyes
again, twisted his fingers into his ears, and listened.
Yes, there was really no mistaking it, there were horses
coming along the road before the house, and he was
certain in his mind that they were the phantoms of his
dream. So he went to the casement and looked out.
Prepared for a surprise he certainly was, but not such a
terrible one as he got. Along the road at a gallop went
a score or so of horsemen: that they were not of this
world was very easy to see, for there was moonlight
58 DOCTOR SYN
shining from their faces and from the faces of the horses
The riders were fantastically dressed in black, and
wore queer tall hats the like of which Jerry had only
seen in ghost books. They were fine riders, too, for
they seemed to the terrified boy actually to grow out
of their horses. Jerry noticed, too, that there were long
streamers of black flying from the harness. The curious
light that shone upon the riders made it possible for
Jerry to see their faces, which were entirely diabolical,
for one and all were laughing as they rode. They were
going at a good pace, so that as soon as they appeared,
just so sudden did they go, and although Jerk opened
the casement and hung out of the window, the mist had
entirely swallowed the riders up, although he could still
hear the distant noise of their horses. It sounded as
if one of them was coming back. Yes, he was sure of
it! So he very quickly shut the window again. The
clatter of hoofs got louder, and presently Jerk, through
the pane, caught sight of a rider trotting out of the mist.
Now there seemed something familiar about this figure
and the peculiar jogging of the steed; but the rider
was well under the window before Jerk discovered that
this was no demon, but the hated schoolmaster. What
was he doing riding out at this hour, thought the young-
ster? Was he in league with the spirits of the Marsh,
and could he pass through them without being scared?
For there was no other turning along the road, and the
DOGGING THE SCHOOLMASTER 59
schoolmaster, although very repulsive to behold, was
not looking in any way concerned; so Jerry came to the
rapid conclusion that his deadly enemy was in some way
or other connected with that mysterious band of horse.
"So," he thought, "if he's up to mischief, I must find
out what that mischief is, and if it's a hanging business,
all the better." So quickly and silently Jerk pulled
on his breeches and coat, and with his boots in his hand
crept out upon the stairs. Everything was very still,
and the creaks and cracks of the old oak were horrible,
and then his grandfather did snore so very loud, and
once just as he was entering the kitchen he heard his
grandmother cry out: "Jerry, come here!" That
nearly made him jump out of his skin, but he heard
immediately afterward her wheezing snore mingled
with those of her better half, so he concluded that she
had only cried out in her sleep. In the kitchen he put
on his boots, and just as he was opening the back door
he heard the tall clock in the front room striking eleven.
He left the door on the latch and, climbing through a
hedge, struck out across the Marsh. He knew well
enough that by running he could pick up the road again
so as to be ahead of the rider; but it was difficult going
at night, and by the time he had scrambled through the
hedge again he saw the schoolmaster passing round at
the back of Mipps's shop. There was still a light burn-
ing in the front window, and after tying up his bony
horse the schoolmaster entered the shop. "Wliat's
60 DOCTOR SYN
he wanting at a coflSn shop at this hour? " thought Jerk.
" I wish he was ordering his own, I do ! " And with this
uncharitable thought he crept along the road and ap-
proached the house. A coflSn shop isn't a pleasant
thing to behold at night. Rows of coffin planks leaned
up against the provision shelves, for Mipps supplied the
village with bread and small eatables. A half-finished
coffin reposed on trestles in the centre of the floor, and
around the room hung every conceivable article that
had to do with coffins. The atmosphere of coffins
spread over everything in the store, and whether young
Jerk looked at the bottles of preserves on this shelf or
the loaves of dark bread on that, to him they meant
but one thing : Death ! And he was quite satisfied that
any one bold enough to eat of the food in that grizzly
shop well deserved to be knocked up solid in one of
The sexton himself was examining with great care a
mixture that he was stirring inside a small cauldron.
Mr. Rash approached him and asked if there was
enough. "Of course there is," answered the sexton.
** Ain't the others all had theirs .^^ And there's only you
left; last again, as usual. Hang the pot on to your sad-
dle and come along." Jerk fell to wondering what on
earth could be inside that pot. He could smell it
through the broken casement, and a right nasty smell
it was. Mipps led the way through the back of the
shop, and Jerk, by changing his position, could see him
DOGGING THE SCHOOLIVIASTER 61
fixing the pot to the saddle, as he had suggested, then
springing on to the horse's back with marvellous agility
for so ancient a man, he went off through the village
with the schoolmaster trotting at the side, and the wary
Jerk following in the shadows.
They led him right through the village to the vicar-
age, and tied the horse behind a tree at the back. Then
Mipps, producing a key, opened the front door, and a
minute later Jerk from a point of vantage behind the
low churchyard wall saw the sexton throw a log on to
the low, smouldering fire in the old grate of the front
room that was the Doctor's study. Mipps also lighted
a candle that stood upon the chimney-board. Jerry
could see into the room quite distinctly now: he could
see the old sexton curled up in the oak settle by the
fireplace, and the schoolmaster's shadow flickering upon
the wall. He also had a good view of the Court House,
where there were candles still burning in the library,
and the hearty voice of the squire would keep sounding
out loud and clear. Presently the door opened and a
figure came out, going off in the direction of the vicarage
barn, and Jerk had no diflSculty in recognizing the
bo'sun of the King's men.
As soon as he had disappeared Jerk got another sur-
prise, for there came across the churchyard, dodging in
and out among the tombstones, a truly terrible thing.
Its face seemed to the boy like the face of a dead man,
for it looked quite yellow, and its white hair gave it a
62 DOCTOR SYN
further corpselike expression. Jerk was terrified that
the thing would see him, but it didn't, for the shining
black eyes, unlike anything he had ever seen before,
were directed entirely upon the lighted window of the
vicarage, and up to it he crawled, and peeped into the
room. The schoolmaster was standing with his back to
the window, but he presently turned and went to the
door. The weird figure crouched in the flower-bed
under the sill, for Mr. Rash opened the front door and
went round to the back of the house to the tree where
he had tied the horse.
As soon as he had gone the yellow-faced man entered
the house. Now Jerry fell to wondering what this was
all about, and what the little sexton would do if he
caught sight of the apparition.
But the sexton's eyes were closed and his mouth wide
open, and Jerry could hear him beginning to snore.
When the door of the room was opened the figure
cautiously crossed toward the fire, but the sexton didn't
move; he was asleep.
Now above the chimney-piece hung a harpoon; it
belonged to Doctor Syn, who was a collector of nautical
curiosities; and this harpoon had once been Clegg's.
It was a curious shape, and it was supposed that only
one man in the Southern Seas besides the pirate had
ever succeeded in throwing it.
The figure was now between Mipps and the firelight,
and it began examining the curios upon the mantel-
DOGGING THE SCHOOLMASTER 68
board. Suddenly it perceived the harpoon and, with a
cry, unhooked it from its nail. The sexton opened his
eyes, and the figure swoing the dangerous weapon above
his head, and Jerk thought that the sexton's last mo-
ment had come, but Mipps, uttering a piercing cry,
kicked out most lustily against the chimney-piece, and
backward he went along with the settle.
Perhaps it was the horrible cry that frightened the
thing, because it came running out of the front door
with the harpoon still in its hand, and leaping the
churchyard wall disappeared among the tombstones
in the direction of the Marsh.
Mipps got up and ran to the door, crying out for
Rash, and at the same time the door of the Court House
opened and Doctor Syn came striding toward the
"No more parochial work, I trust to-night, Mr. Sex-
ton.^" he said cheerily, but then noticing Mipps's terri-
fied demeanour he added: "What's the matter, Mr.
Mipps .^ You look as grave as a tombstone."
"So would you, sir, if you seen wot I seed. It was
standin' over me lookin' straight down at me, as yellow
as a guinea."
"TVliat was?" said the cleric.
"A thing!" said the sexton.
"Come, come, what sort of thing.?" demanded the
"The likes of a man," repHed the sexton, thinking.
64 DOCTOR SYN
"but not a livin' man — a sort of shape — a. dead 'un —
and yet I can't help fancying I've seed it somewheres
before. By thunder!" he cried suddenly, "I know.
That's why it took Clegg's harpoon. For God's sake,
come inside, sir." And in they went hurriedly, fol-
lowed by Rash, who had just arrived back on the scene.
Inside the room Mr. Mipps again narrated in a horrified
whisper what he had just seen, pointing now out of the
window in the direction taken by the thing and now
at the empty nail where Clegg's harpoon had hung.
Doctor Syn went to the window to close the shutters
and saw Sennacherib Pepper crossing the far side of the
"Good-night, Sennacherib," he cried out, and shut
the shutters. A minute later out came the school-
master, but instead of going round for his horse, as
Jerry expected, he walked quickly after Sennacherib
Pepper. "How long is this going on for, I wonder?"
thought young Jerk, as he picked himself up and set
off after the schoolmaster.
THE END OF SENNACHERIB PEPPER
FOR half a mile out of the village Mr. Rash kept
well in the rear of Sennacherib Pepper, and
Jerk kept well behind the schoolmaster. It was
a weird night. Everything was vivid, either very dark
or very light ; such grass as they came to was black grass;
such roadways they crossed were white roads ; the sky was
brightly starlit, but the mountainous clouds were black,
and the edges of the great dyke sluices were pitch black,
but the water and thin mud, silver steel, reflecting the
light of the sky. Sennacherib Pepper was a black shadow
ahead; the schoolmaster was a blacker one; and Jerk —
well, he couldn't see himself; he rather wished he could,
Although Mr. Rash was a very black-looking figure,
there was something small and ugly that kept catch-
ing the silver steel reflected in the dyke water. What
was it.f^ Jerry couldn't make out. It was some-
thing in Mr. Rash's hand, and he kept bringing it
out and thrusting it back into the pocket of his
overcoat. But the young adventurer had enough to
do, keeping himself from being discovered, else he
66 DOCTOR SYN
might have understood and so saved Sennacherib's
When they got about a mile from the village Mr.
Rash quickened his pace; Jerry quickened his accord-
ingly, but Sennacherib Pepper, who had no object in
doing so, did not quicken his. Once the schoolmaster
stopped dead, and the young hangman only just pulled
up in time, so near was he; and once again the silver
thing came out of the pocket, but this time Mr. Rash
looked at it before thrusting it back again. Then he
began to run.
"Is that you. Doctor Pepper.^" he called out.
"Now this is strange," thought Jerk, "for the
schoolmaster must surely have known what man he
was following, and why hadn't he cried out before?"
Sennacherib stopped. Jerk drew himself down among
the rushes in the dyke and crept as near to the two men
as he dared; he was within easy earshot, anyhow.
"Who is it?" asked Pepper; and then, recognizing
the shoddy young man, he added: "Why, it's the school-
"Yes, Doctor Pepper," replied Rash, "and it's been a
hard job I've had to recover you, for it's an uncanny
way over the Marsh."
Just then there was the sound of horses galloping in
the distance, Jerk could hear it distinctly.
"What do you want me for?" asked the physician.
"It was the vicar sent me for you, sir," replied the
END OF SENNACHERIB PEPPER 67
schoolmaster. "He wants you to come at once; there 's
somebody dying in the parish."
"Do you know who it is.^" said the physician.
"I believe it's old Mrs. Tapsole in the Bake House,
but I'm none too sure."
Indeed it seemed to Jerk that uncertainty was the
whole attitude of the schoolmaster. He seemed to be
listening to the distant noise of galloping and answering
old Sennacherib at random. Perhaps the physician also
noticed something in his manner, for he looked at him
pretty straight and said :
"I don't think it's Mrs. Tapsole, either, for I saw her
to-day and she was as merry as a cricket."
"She's had a fit, sir, that's about what she's had,"
replied the schoolmaster vaguely.
"Then," said the physician, "you do know something
about it, do you?"
"I know just what I was asked to say," returned the
schoolmaster irritably. "It's not my business to tell
you what's the matter with your patients. If you
don't know, I'm sure I don't. You're a doctor, ain't
No doubt old Pepper would have pulled the school-
master up with a good round turn for his boorishness
and extraordinary manner had he not at that instant
caught the sound of the galloping horses. "Look
there!" he cried.
At full gallop across the Marsh were going a score or
68 DOCTOR SYN
so of horsemen, lit by a light that shone from their
faces and from the heads of their mad horses. Jerk
could see Rash shaking as if with the ague, but for some
reason he pretended not to see the hideous sight.
"What are you looking at.^^" he said, "for I see
"There, there!" screamed old Pepper. "You must
see something there!"
"Nothing but dyke, marsh, and the highroad," fal-
tered the schoolmaster.
"No! There — look — riders — men on horses. Marsh
fiends!" yelled the terrified physician.
"What in hell's name are you trying to scare me
for.^" cursed the trembling Rash. "Don't I tell you I
see nothing? Ain't that enough for you.^^ "
"Then God forgive me!" cried poor Sennacherib,
"for I can see 'em and you can't; there's something
wrong with my soul."
"Then God have mercy on it!" The words came
somehow through the schoolmaster's set teeth; the
silver steel leapt from the pocket of his overcoat, and
Sennacherib was savagely struck twice under the arm
as he pointed at the riders. He gave one great cry and
fell forward, while the schoolmaster, entirely gone to
pieces, with quaking limbs and chattering teeth, stooped
down and cleaned the knife by stabbing it swiftly up to
the hilt in a clump of short grass that grew in the soil
by the roadside.
END OF SENNACHERIB PEPPER 69
The sudden horror of the thing was too much even
for the callous Jerk, for his senses failed him and he slid
back into the dyke among the rushes, and when he
came to himself the first shreds of dawn were rising
over Romney Marsh.
DOCTOR SYN GIVES SOME ADVICE
THAT he was still dreaming was Jerry's first
thought, but he was so bitterly cold — for his
clothes were wet with mud and dyke water —
that he quickly realized his mistake; however, it took
him a power of time and energy, and not a little
courage, before he dared creep forth from his hiding-
place. When he did the Marsh looked empty. The
sheets of mist had rolled away, and it looked as innocent
a piece of land as God had ever made. There was no
sound save the tickling bubbles that rose from their
mud-bed to burst amid the rushes, no one in sight but
the old gentleman lying outstretched upon the road.
Jerry crept up to him and looked. He was lying face
downward, just as he had fallen, and the white road
was stained with a dark bloody smudge.
"Well," he said to himself, "here's another job for
old Mipps and a trip to the ropemaker's," and shiver-
ing with cold and horror he set off as fast as he could go
toward the village.
Now, when he was within sight of his own house, he
began to consider what it was his duty to do. He had
DOCTOR SYN GIVES SOME ADVICE 71
his own eyesight to prove the schoolmaster's guilt; but
would he be believed? Could the schoolmaster some-
how turn the tables upon him? If he breathed a word
to his grandparents he would at once be hauled before
that brutal captain; and the captain he felt sure would
not believe him. The squire might, but the captain
would, of course, take the side of authority, and back up
the schoolmaster. Denis Cobtree was not old enough
to give him counsel, and, besides that, the captain was
staying at the Court House.
No; Doctor Syn was the man to go to. He was
kindly and patient, and would anyhow give one leave
to speak without interruption. So, crossing the fields,
so as not to pass by his grandparents' windows, he struck
out for the vicarage.
Just as he was skirting the churchyard he heard the
tramp of feet, and the captain passed along the road,
followed by the King's men. Two of them were bear-
ing a shutter. Then the murder was known already.
They were going to get Sennacherib's body. Yes, it
most certainly was, for there was affixed to the church
door a new notice. Jerry approached and read the
large glaring letters :
A hundred guineas will be paid to any person, or persons,
who shall directly cause the arrest of a mulatto, a seaman.
White hair; yellow face; dumb; no ears; six feet high; when
last seen wearing royal navy cook's uniform. Necklace of
sharks' teeth around neck. Tattoo marks of a gibbet on
72 DOCTOR SYN
right forearm; a cockatoo on left wrist; and a brig in full sail
executed in two dyes of tattoo work upon his chest.
This man wanted by the crown for the murder of Sen-
nacherib Pepper, Doctor of Physics and of Romney Marsh.
[Signed] Antony Cobtree,
Leveller of the Marsh Scotts, Court House, Dymchurch,
Captain of his Majesty's Navy, and Coast Agent and Com-
missioner, Court House, Dymchurch.
The writing on this notice was executed in most
scholarly style, and Jerk knew the familiar lettering
to be the handiwork of the murderous schoolmaster
himself. This colossal audacity was quite terrifying
to him. It looked as if it had been written in the blood
of the victim; for the black ink was still wet.
As he gazed the church door opened and Doctor Syn
came out. He looked pale and worried, as well he
might, for indeed this shocking affair had already caused
a most shaking sensation in the village.
"This is a bad business, boy," he said to Jerk, who
was still gazing at the notice.
"You may well say that, sir," replied the boy.
"Poor old Sennacherib," sighed the cleric. "To
think that you went from my friend's house to meet
your death. Well," he added hotly, shaking his
fist across at the Marsh, "let's hope they catch the
rascal, for we will give him short shrift for you, Sen-
DOCTOR SYN GIVES SOME ADVICE 73
"Aye, indeed, sir," replied young Jerk, "and let's
hope as how it'll be the right 'un when they does."
"The right what?" asked Doctor Syn.
"The right rascal," said young Jerk, "for that ain't
"What do you know about it, my lad?" said the
"The whole thing," replied Jerk, "for I seed the
whole of the ugly business. I seed the man with the
yellow face last night. I seed him a-comin' out of your
front door with a weapon in his hand."
"You saw that?" cried the cleric, his eyes shining
with excitement. "You could swear that in the Court
"I could do it anywheres," replied Jerk, "let alone
the Court House, and what's more, I could swear that
he never killed Doctor Pepper."
"How can you possibly say such a thing?" said
"Because I seed the whole thing done, as I keep
tellin' you," answered Jerk, "and it wasn't him as did
"How do you know?" asked the Doctor hastily.
"Where were you?"
"Out on the Marsh," said Jerk, "all night."
"What!" ejaculated the vicar, looking at the boy
doubtfully. "Are you speaking the truth, my lad?"
"The solemn truth," replied young Jerk.
74 DOCTOR SYN
"You were out on the Marsh all night?" repeated the
astonished cleric. "And pray, what were you doing
"Dogging that schoolmaster," replied Jerk with con-
"Come into the vicarage," said Doctor Syn, "and
tell me all about it." And he led the boy into the
When he had finished his tale Doctor Syn took him
into the kitchen and lit the fire, bidding him dry his
wet clothes, for Jerk was still shivering with the cold
of the dyke water. Then he boiled some milk in a
saucepan and set it before him, with a cold game pie
and a loaf of bread. Jerk made a hearty meal and felt
better, his opinion of clergymen going up at a bound
when he discovered that a strong dose of excellent
ship's rum had been mixed with the milk. "Rum's
good stuff, my lad, on occasions," he said cheerily,
"and I've a notion that it'll drive the cold out of you,"
and Jerry thought it a very sensible notion, too.
"And now look here, my lad," the Doctor went on,
when Jerry could eat no more, " what you've seen may
be true enough, though I tell you I can hardly credit
it. It's a good deal for a thinking man to swallow,
you'll allow, what with the devil riders and all that.
Besides which I can see no earthly reason for the school-
master committing the crime. As yet I really don't
know what to say, my boy. I'm beat, I confess it. 1
DOCTOR SYN GIVES SOME ADVICE 75
must think things over for an hour or so. In the mean-
time I must strongly urge you to keep this adventure
to yourself. It is very dangerous to make accusations
that you have no means of proving, and certainly you
can prove nothing, for there is nothing to go on but
what you thought you saw. Well, a nightmare has
upset better men than you before now, Jerry, and it is
possible that your rich imagination may have supplied
the whole thing. Go back then, to your house, and get
a couple of hours' sleep, and then go to school as if
nothing had happened. Then I'll tell you what we'll
do, my lad: you come round here and we'll have a bit
of dinner together and talk of this again."
"Thank you, sir," said Jerk, very flattered at being
asked to dine with the vicar. **I consider that you've
behaved very sensible over this horrible affair, though
where you get wrong, sir, is over my *rich imagination.'
That part ain't true, sir. I knows what I seed, and
I sees Rash stick Pepper twice under the arm with his
But Doctor Syn dismissed him with further adjura-
tions to hold his tongue, adding that the whole thing
seemed most odd.
On the way back from the vicarage Jerk met the
sailors returning to the Court House bearing the re-
mains of Sennacherib Pepper upon the shutter. After
his conversation with Doctor Syn he thought it best
to keep out of sight, as he was not desirous of being
76 DOCTOR SYN
questioned by the captain, and so, when they had
passed, he slipped home and managed to get into bed
before his grandparents were astir. After his goodly
feast at the vicarage he found it difficult to eat his usual
hearty breakfast, but he did his best, saying that the
news of this horrible murder and the thought of the
man with the yellow face who was wanted by the King's
men must have put him off his feed. And so his night's
adventure passed unheeded, for everybody was too
busy discussing the murder and setting forth their
individual opinions upon it to trouble themselves about
any suspicious behaviour of "Hangman Jerk."
THE COURT HOUSE INQUIRY
JERRY JERK made it a golden rule to be always
late for school, but on this particular morning
he intended to be there before the schoolmaster,
for he wanted to watch him, and if he saw an opening,
make him nervous, without in any way betraying his
secret. In the comfort of daylight he had lost all those
terrors that had oppressed his spirit; indeed, ever since
he had unburdened his mind to Doctor Syn he had
entirely recovered his usual confidence. So with jaunty
assurance he approached the schoolhouse, determined
to be there before the murderer. But this same
determination had evidently occurred to the school-
master, for when Jerry arrived at the schoolhouse he
could see Mr. Rash already bending over his desk.
Jerry, imagining that he had miscalculated the time,
felt highly annoyed, fearing that he may have missed
something worth seeing; but on entering the school-
room he found that not one of his schoolfellows had ar-
rived; consequently his entrance was the more marked.
As a matter of fact, Jerk's young colleagues were hang-
ing about outside the Court House until the last pos-
78 DOCTOR SYN
sible moment, for there was much ado going forward,
sailors on guard outside the door, people going in and
coming out, and the gossips of the village discussing
the foul murder of the unfortunate Sennacherib Pepper.
Jerk went to his desk, sat down and waited, narrowly
watching the schoolmaster, who was writing, keeping
his face low to the desk. The boy thought that he
never would look up, but after some ten minutes
he did, and Jerk stared the murderer straight in the
The schoolmaster bravely tried to return the stare,
but failed, and then Jerk knew that he had in a measure
failed also, failed in his trust to Doctor Syn, for in that
glance Jerry had unconsciously told the malefactor what
he knew. Presently Rash spoke without looking up:
** Where have those other rascals got to?"
Promptly Jerk answered : *' If you're addressing your-
self to a rascal, you ain't addressing yourself to me,
and I scorns to reply; but if I'm mistook — well, I
think you knows where they are as well as I do who
ain't no rascal, but a respectable potboy, and no schol-
ard, thank God!"
"I don't know where they are," replied the school-
master, looking up. "Be so good as to tell me, please.
Jerk, and I'll take this birch" (and his voice rose high)
"and beat 'em all up to the schoolhouse like a herd of
pigs, I will ! " Then conquering his emotion, he added :
"Please, Jerk, where are they?'*
THE COURT HOUSE INQUIRY 79
But Jerk was in no way softened, so placing his fore-
finger to the side of his nose and solemnly winking one
eye, he said: *'I don't know no more than you do. Mis-
ter, but if you does want me to guess I don't mind
putting six and six together and saying as how you'll
find 'em hanging about to get a glimpse at old Pepper's
grizzly corpse, wot was brought from the Marsh on a
"I'll teach them!" shrieked the schoolmaster, flour-
ishing the birch and flying out of the door.
^'That's it!" added Jerk. "You do, and I'll teach
you, too, my fine fellow, who rapped my head once.
I'll teach you and teach you till I teaches your head to
wriggle snug inside a good rope's noose." And having
thus given vent to his feelings, Jerk followed the school-
master to see the fun.
The crowd outside the Court House was quite large
for Dymchurch. Everybody was there, and right in
front enjoying the excitement gaped and peered the
scholars of the school. But Rash elbowed his way
through the throng and fell upon them like a sudden
squall, using the terrible birch upon the youngsters'
shoulders, quite regardless of the cries of "Shame!" and
"Stop him!" from the villagers. But the onslaught of
Rash came to a sudden conclusion, for the heavy hand
of the captain's bo'sun fell upon him and ordered him
immediately inside the Court House. Jerk saw Rash
turn the colour of a jellyfish, asserting wildly that there
80 DOCTOR SYN
must be some mistake, and that having his duty to per-
form at the school he must beg to be excused.
"It's my opinion," replied the bo'sun in a hard voice,
"that them lads will get a holiday to-day. The in-
quiry is going forward about this murder, and I have
orders to see that you attend." So keeping his rough
hand upon the teacher's shoulder he led him, still pro-
testing vehemently, inside the Court House, with the
jeers and jibes of the scholars ringing in his ears.
Jerk had by now worked his way to the front of
the crowd, and there he stood looking with wonder at
the two great seamen who with drawn cutlasses were
guarding the open door. Dymchurch was having the
excitement of its life, and no mistake, and a holiday
for the school, even the tragedy of Sennacherib Pepper's
death, was forgotten in the glory of that moment, and
the hated schoolmaster had been publicly stopped
thrashing the boys and had himself been ordered into
the Court House.
"I wonder what for.^^" thought young Jerk. "I
wonder .f^" He would have given a lot to see inside
that upper room, where the inquiry was now about to
proceed. Presently the captain himself came out of
the hall and stood for a moment on the gravel outside,
looking at the crowd. Now there were sailors keeping
the crowd back; never had there been such formal
times in Dymchurch. The captain glanced at the
little knot of schoolboys with their satchels, and
THE COURT HOUSE INQUIRY 81
suddenly catching sight of Jerk, called out: "Hie you!
you're the potboy of the Ship Inn, ain't you? Well, I
want you. Step this way ! " So his wish was granted,
and followed by the wonder and admiration of the
crowd, Jerry Jerk, potboy of the Ship, strutted after
the King's captain into the Court House.
THE CAPTAIN OBJECTS
UP THE old stairway to the courtroom Jerk
followed the captain, wondering why he had
been called, what the captain knew about last
night, and whatever Doctor Syn would advise him to
Bay if he were questioned. These were nutty problems
for Jerry's young teeth to crack, and though some-
what nervous in consequence, he was on the whole
highly delighted at seeing the fun.
The procedure of the inquiry was evidently biding
the captain's presence, for as soon as he had taken his
seat at the high table the squire rose and in a few well-
chosen words announced the inquiry to be set and open.
The captain seemed to have forgotten the presence of
Jerk, who was left standing in the doorway surveying
the august company. There was an attorney-at-law
and a doctor of medicine from Hythe, an attorney from
Romney and a doctor from Romney. At the high
table these four gentlemen sat facing the squire, who
was in the centre, with Doctor Syn upon his right.
On his left was the chair just occupied by the captain,
and on fixed oak benches round the room sat the lead-
THE CAPTAIN OBJECTS 83
ing lights of Dymchurch: the head preventive officer,
three or four well-to-do farmers, two owners of fishing
luggers, Denis Cobtree, Mrs. Waggetts, and the school-
master, besides two or three other villagers. Nobody
took much notice of Jerk when he came in, for all eyes
were on the captain, but Doctor Syn not only took
notice but the trouble to point out an empty space on
one of the benches.
*'Are all those summoned for this inquiry present?"
asked the captain, looking round at the assemblage.
**A11 but Mr. Mipps," said the squire, referring to a
list of names before him. "While we were waiting for
you, he took the opportunity of viewing the body next
The captain signed to one of the two sailors who
were guarding the door of the adjoining room, and he
accordingly summoned the undertaker, who with an
eye to business was measuring the corpse. Jerk caught
a glimpse of this as the door opened, and of the form of
Sennacherib Pepper lying on a table. The undertaker,
with a footrule in his hands, took his place on one of
the benches. Mipps's entrance seemed to revive the
tragedy of the whole business, for there was a pause
pending the squire's opening speech; but the captain
was the first to speak. He arose and to the astonish-
ment of everybody took up and lit a pipe which had
been lying upon the table in front of him.
"Sir Antony Cobtree and gentlemen," he said in his
84 DOCTOR SYN
great husky sea voice, as he drew the smoke deliberately
through the long clay stem and volleyed it back from
his set mouth in blue battle clouds across the table,
"we have met here to discuss, as Sir Antony Cobtree
has already said better than I ever could, the sad and
sudden death of Doctor Sennacherib Pepper, killed
violently last night on Romney Marsh. The form of
this inquiry I leave to the lawyers whose business it is,
but before they get busy I've got a few things bottled up
that I must and will say. I don't possess the knack of
a crafty tongue myself, I've the reputation among my
colleagues of being the most tactless man in the service;
but I've also a reputation as a fighter, and when I do
fight, it's a hard fight — a straightforward, open fight.
So what I've got to say will like enough cause offence to
every man in this room from Sir Antony Cobtree down-
ward. I'm no good at strategy; as I say, I fight open;
and when I think things — well, I can't bottle them up;
I say 'em out bluntly at the risk of offence. So here it
is: I don't like this business — this Doctor Pepper
business " The captain here paused to roll a large
volume of smoke across the room.
The squire took advantage of the pause and said:
"If that's all it is, Captain, come now — which of us
The captain thought a moment and added: "If the
party or parties who committed the crime didn't like it,
why, in thunder's name, did they do it.^^"
THE CAPTAIN OBJECTS 85
"You should know that better than we do," returned
the squire hotly, "for that the murderer was under
your employment is fairly obvious."
" You are referring to the mulatto seaman," said the
captain. "In the first place, I consider that you should
have asked my permission before you issued that public
notice affixed to the church door. Until the mulatto is
found and can be examined, I deny your right or any
man's right to brand him as a murderer."
"You remarked just now, sir," cried the squire,
"that you preferred to leave the business of lawyers to
the lawyers. Please do so, and remember that while I
am head of this jurisdiction on Romney Marsh I'll
brook no dictation from Admiralty men — no, sir, not
from the First Lord downward."
"Come, come, gentlemen," said Doctor Syn, drum-
ming with his fingers on the table, "I think that this is an
ill-fitting time and place for \\Tangling. The captain
has got a bee in his bonnet somehow, and the sooner we
get it out for him the better. Let us please hear, sir,
what he has to say."
The squire nodded his head roughly and sat silent,
while the rest of the company waited for the captain to
continue, which he presently did, still pulling vigor-
ously at his long clay pipe.
"The next thing I don't like," he went on, "is Dym-
church itself. I don't like the Marsh behind it, and I
don't like the flat, open coastline ; it looks a deal too in-
86 DOCTOR SYN
nocent for me on the surface, and, not being a strategist,
I don't like it."
The squire was on edge with irritation.
"I am sure, sir," he said sarcastically, "that had the
Almighty been notified of your objection during the
process of the creation he would have extended Dover
Cliffs round Dungeness." The captain didn't seem to
notice the interruption.
"Next, I don't like the people here, leaving Doctor
Syn out of it — for he's a parson and I never could make
head or tail of parsons. I say that, from the squire
down, you're none of you swimming the surface. Sir
Antony Cobtree went to great pains to lavishly enter-
tain me yesterday, in order that he might politely im-
prison me last night. I enjoy good entertainment and
the conversation of witty, clever men, but not at the
price of a locked door."
"I don't know what you are talking about!" said the
squire, livid with rage.
"Don't you, sir.?" retorted Captain Collyer. "Well,
I do, as I had to risk breaking my neck when I climbed
down the ivy from your top window."
"You had only to tell me of your eccentric habits,"
said the squire, "and I would have set a ladder against
your window in case the door stuck."
"The door was locked, and well your know it, sir,"
cried the captain, suddenly turning on the squire, "for
half an hour after I had climbed back through the
THE CAPTAIN OBJECTS 87
window — to be exact, at half-past four — I heard
stealthy feet come along the passage and unlock it, by
which I know that for a period of the night you wanted
to make sure of me inside my room, and when on in-
quiring from your servants I discover that I am the first
guest who has ever slept in that particular room, and
that the furniture was put into it for the occasion from
one of the spare rooms, I begin to see your wisdom, for
that room contained no view of the highroad, no view
of the Marsh or sea.'*
"Gad! sir, you are the first man who has dared to
question my hospitality. Perhaps you expected me to
give up my room for your accommodation."
*' Nothing of the kind," answered the captain, "but I
expected to be dealt straight with. And this brings me
to the end of my complaints, and let me tell you this: I
saw enough last night on the Marsh to keep Jack Ketch
busy for an hour or so. Gentlemen, I am warning you.
You'll not be the first I've sent from the coast to the
sessions, nor will you be the last. I warn you, one and
all, that I'm going to strike soon. I'm not afraid of
your tales of Marsh devils and demon riders. I'll rout
'em out and see how they look by daylight. I've men
behind me that I can trust, and they're pretty hardy
fighters. If your demon riders are not of this world,
then they'll do our good steel no harm; but if they are
just men playing hanky-panky tricks to frighten fools
from the Marsh, well, all I've got to say to them is, if
88 DOCTOR SYN
they relish British cutlasses in their bowels, let them
continue with such pranks as they played upon poor
Pepper, and they'll get Pepper back and be damned to
them, for it's Jack Ketch or the cold steel and nothing
else." And having thus hurled his challenge at the as-
sembly the captain put his pipe upon the table and sat
You can imagine that a speech of so staggering a
nature had a strange effect upon the company. So
sudden was it, so ferocious, so uncalled for, that nearly
a minute elapsed before any one moved. At last the
squire rose, speaking quietly but in that clear voice that
everybody in Dymchurch knew so well and respected:
"Gentlemen, Doctor Syn spoke very wisely, as it is
ever his wont to do, when he rebuked us for wrangling,
for, as he said, both time and place are ill fitting. This
is the first time that I have been insulted during my
long sojourn in Romney Marsh, and I am glad that it
has been in the presence of my friends and tenants of
Dymchurch, who know me well and will do me right in
their own minds, never allowing themselves to be warped
for a single instant by the scathing and unjust remarks
of a stranger upon whom I have, to the best of my abil-
ity, bestowed hospitality and every mark of friendship.
On the other hand, I most honestly affirm that Captain
Howard Collyer has given me insult in a straightfor-
ward way . In his defence I must say that the Admiralty
have chosen a bad man to do their spying for them;
THE CAPTAIN OBJECTS 89
when I say bad, I mean, of course, the * wrong' man.
I know the captain to be a brave and a good sailor.
The splendid though tactless drubbing that he gave to
the French man-o'-war Golden Lion in the mouth of the
St. Lawrence River describes exactly the sort of character
that Collyer carries; and if the Admiralty had left him
in command of the Resistance we should have been at
war with the odious French long ago. I now give the
Admiralty credit for being weatherwise seamen and
diplomatists, and think them shrewd in depriving him of
a * command.' Having now, as it were, given the devil
his due, I say to him, in the presence of you all, that his
words here this morning have been foolish, ridiculous,
and altogether preposterous. It is not in accordance
with either my private or public dignity that I should
answer the vague, hinted accusation of this captain. As
I said before, I am judge here, and while I hold the most
honourable position of 'Leveller of Marsh Scotts,' I
decline to entertain any imputations, for should I ever
consider myself to be in the position of being rationally
accused of any crime of lawlessness, I should, for the
honour of my office and the general welfare of Romney
Marsh, regard myself compelled to resign. This I have
no intention of doing, for it is clearly now my bounden
duty to see my poor friend Sennacherib Pepper righted
and avenged; and for that duty I sweep aside Captain
Collyer's statements as trivial and impertinent. You
gentlemen in this Court House are all good Marsh-
90 DOCTOR SYN
men, and one and all know me better than I know
myself. When you consider me unfit to be your judge
I will retire, but not till then.'*
A storm of applause greeted the squire as he sat
down, but it was cheeked by Doctor Syn, who again
reminded the assemblage of the sad event that had
brought them to the Court House and begged them
out of respect for the dead gentleman in the next room
to abstain from any further acclamation.
THE END OF THE INQUIRY
THE lawyers now asserted themselves, and for
some three hours questioned and cross-ques-
tioned everybody. The squire left things in
their hands, seeming to take small interest in the pro-
ceedings, while the captain, with his chin resting on his
great hand, obviously took none at all. Doctor Syn, how-
ever, was at great pains to follow through the whole
business, making notes of anything he deemed character-
istic upon a scrap of paper before him.
But with all their cleverness the lawyers were greatly
at sea, for they only ended up where they began —
namely, that Sennacherib Pepper was dead, and by
violent means; that a foreign sailor was missing, and
that this same sailor had stolen at a short period before
the murder a certain harpoon from the house of Doctor
Syn, and that from the nature and size of the wound
upon the body sudden death was most certainly caused
by this same weapon. To this false though obvious
conclusion Doctor Syn, to Jerk's intense surprise, un-
hesitatingly agreed. Jerk couldn't understand this at
all. Why had he been called to the trial if the vicar
92 DOCTOR SYN
had not believed his story? for he found on being
summoned to the witness box that all he was required
to state was whether or no he had seen the mulatto
enter the vicarage on the previous night and leave it a
few minutes later with the harpoon in question in his
hand. Having sworn to this, he was on the point of
taking matters into his own hands and exposing the
schoolmaster, when he was peremptorily ordered to
"stand down" and only answer what was required of
him. Returning to his place, he plainly noted the
relief on the face of the schoolmaster. A warmer time
of it had Mr. Mipps. There was something about
Mipps that would always be called in question. If a
great crime had been committed within a fifty-mile
radius of Mipps, he would most assuredly have been
detained upon suspicion. His quizzical appearance of
injured innocence was quite enough to label him a
"likely one." On this occasion he acted upon the
attorneys like a red rag to a bull.
"If I'm to bekept standing through this examination,"
he remarked on his way to the witness box, "I must beg
of you to be more brisk and businesslike than you have
shown yourselves already. Perhaps in your profession
you are paid for wastin' your time, but in mine you
ain't, so please remember it. As our worthy vicar
knows, I has a lot of work to get through; so the sooner
you get on with this here dismal business the better
temper you'll keep me in, see?"
THE END OF THE INQUIRY 93
"You keep your mouth shut, my man, till you're
questioned," sang out one of the attorneys sharply.
"I'll keep my mouth shut for nobody but squire and
Doctor Syn," retorted the sexton, "and in your future
remarks don't *my man' me, please. I ain't your man,
and it's mighty pleased I am I ain't."
When ordered to give an account of what had hap-
pened on the previous night, he obstinately refused to
open his mouth until they had removed to the other
side of the room the two sailors who were guarding the
witness box. "For," said he, "I can't abide the look
or the smell of 'em; they fair turns me up."
This caused much laughter among the villagers, and
indeed the little sexton was so ready with his scathing
remarks at the expense of the lawyers that in order to
preserve their dignity they were obliged to stand him
"Have I now your permission to go back to my measur-
ing," said Mipps, producing his footrule, "or will any
more advice from me be required.'^"
The lawyers tartly observed that he had been little
or no use at all, and turned to the next witness.
After the schoolmaster had been called upon to bear
out certain points of evidence, the three hours' useless
palaver came to a conclusion, the attorneys agreeing
with Doctor Syn that Sennacherib Pepper had been
murdered by the mulatto, and that as soon as he was
taken he would get swift trial and short shrift; mean-
94 DOCTOR SYN
time "any one found sheltering, feeding, or in any way
abetting the said mulatto would be prosecuted."
As it was now approaching dinner-time, further mat-
ters were left over until such time as the mulatto should
This, Doctor Syn vehemently urged, was of grave im-
port to the Marsh folk, for so long as that maniac
starved upon the Marsh, with a good weapon in his
hand, they were open to the same fate as that which
had befallen the inoffensive Pepper.
The captain rose first, left the Court House, and set
off for the Ship Inn without a word to the squire, the
latter, accompanied by the attorneys and medical men,
repairing to the dining-hall below. Doctor Syn, how-
ever, went from group to group, impressing the necessity
for posses of men to scour the Marsh for the missing
This gave Rash an opportunity of approaching Jerkj»
who, being due to dine at the vicarage, was awaiting
the parson's pleasure.
"Well! And what do you think of Court House
inquiries, Mr. Jerk?" he said affably. "Impressive,
ain't they .^"
"Not to me," replied Jerry. "I don't think nothing
at all of 'em. After all the messing of them lawyers, I
shouldn't be surprised if they hadn't got hold of the
wrong end of the stick, should you.^^"
"What do you mean — the wrong end?'
THE END OF THE INQUIRY 95
"What I say: the wrong end ain't the right 'un, I
"Then you don't think the mulatto committed the
"From what that there sea captain said, I should
say you ain't got no right to put thoughts into my
head any more than words into my mouth."
"Come, Jerk," said the schoolmaster suavely, "no
"Never said there was," replied Jerry.
"Then come and have a bite with me at my house,
as there's no school to-day; I should be honoured, in-
deed I should," and the schoolmaster beamed upon him.
"Would you, though.^ I wonders .f^" mused the boy.
"Sorry to disappoint you," he added airily, "but I'm
a-dinin' at the vicarage."
"Oh, with the vicar?"
"No, with the Shah of Persia." Then in a tone of
supreme condescension he added: "I believes vicars
lives in vicarages!"
"Ah — so — so! quite right!" returned the school-
master. "Doctor Syn, then, has asked you to dine?"
"Well, I don't see anything so very remarkable in
that, do you?"
"Oh, not at all — all very right, proper, and pleasant."
"W^ell, it's right enough, you can lay to that, 'cos I
tells you it is, and as to its being proper, well, I don't
see as how it's improper, so I suppose it is; and as to
96 DOCTOR SYN
its being "pleasant, well, I'll tell you when I knows what's
to eat there; and if you'll excuse me I'll be off now, 'cos
I believe Doctor Syn is waiting for me."
Indeed at that moment Doctor Syn approached and,
putting his hand affectionately on Jerk's shoulder, with
a friendly nod to the schoolmaster, he led the boy from
the room of inquiry out of the Court House and so to
the vicarage, where a cold dinner was already prepared.
AT THE VICARAGE
N^ OW, although it was comparatively early in the
afternoon, Doctor Syn did rather a curious
thing, or so it seemed to Jerry, for he had the
wooden shutters of the dining-room fastened, and they
dined by the light of candles. This had quite an un-
canny effect — to dine by candles in broad daylight —
but Jerk thought perhaps this was always done when
gentry entertained company.
Doctor Syn was gloomy through the meal, and al-
though he kept pressing Jerry to "take more" and to
"help himself," he made no effort at keeping up con-
versation; in fact, had not the food been good and
plenteous, Jerry very much doubted whether he would
have enjoyed himself at all, for Doctor Syn's manner
was so different. He seemed strained and excited,
and not once or twice, but many times during the re-
past, he would get up and stride about the room, and
once he broke out into singing that old sea song that
Jerry had so often heard at the Ship Inn :
** Here's to the feet wot have walked the plank.
Yo ho ! for the dead man's throttle.
And here's to the corpses floating round in the tank,
And the dead man's teeth in the bottle."
98 DOCTOR SYN
Now to make conversation Jerry was bold enough to
interrupt this song by inquiring what exactly was
meant by the "dead man's throttle." Doctor Syn
stopped in his walk and looked at him, filling two tots of
rum, one of which he handed to Jerk, tossing off the
other himself and saying :
"Ah, you may well ask that, sonny. I don't know
exactly myself, but I suppose if poor Pepper was to
come in here now and throttle us, man and boy — him
being stone dead, as we both well know — well, we should
be having the *dead man's throttle' served on us!"
"Oh, I see!" replied Jerk with interest. "Then 1
take it that the rest of the song has some shreds of
meaning, too? What's the *tank' that the corpses float
round in, sir.^"
"The sea," replied the Doctor, "the sea; that's the
great tank, my lad, and that there are corpses enough
floating round in it, I don't think you and I could
"That's plain and true enough," said Jerk, "but I
don't see no sense about the 'dead man's teeth in the
"That's plain enough," said the Doctor, taking a stiff
swig from the black bottle itself; "it was in England's
day that I wrote that. He cut a nigger's head off with
a cutlass because the rascal was drinking his best rum
on the sly, and the shock, as he died, made the black
brute bite through the glass neck of the bottle."
AT THE VICARAGE 99
"Did you see it, sir?" asked Jerk, carried away by
** Who said I saw it? " demanded the cleric sharply.
"Well, you said you wrote the song, sir, and at the
time it happened."
"Nothing of the kind — I said nothing of the kind.
The song's an old one, an ancient thing. God knows
what rascal invented it, but you can depend upon it, a
rascal he was. I don't know why I should hum it — I
don't know what it means; can't make head or tale of
"You explains it very sensible, I thinks," replied
"I don't — I don't. I give you my word it's Greek
"But Greek's easy to parsons, ain't it?"
"Yes, yes — well, Chinese, Fiji — what you will — what
you will. Have some rum!" The Doctor's manner
was really very strange indeed. Add to this the shut-
tered room, the candlelight, and the strong spirits in
his head, and it was small wonder that Jerry felt none
too comfortable, especially as at the conclusion of the
meal the door opened and Mr. Rash entered the room.
"Well, my lad," said the vicar, "now you know where
I feed, drop in again. Parochial matters to attend to
with the schoolmaster: must choose the hymns, you
know, for Sunday, or the choir will have nothing to
sing." And in this vein he led the boy out into the
100 DOCTOR SYN
hall. He then dropped his voice to a whisper: "You
were wrong about the schoolmaster last night, sonny.
I'll explain things to you some day. Meanwhile, here's
a crown piece. You're a smart lad, ain't yoxi? Well,
keep a weather eye open for that mulatto rascal.
There's more in this ugly business than we imagine.
I'll tell you all about it when I know more myself, but
you made a mistake last night, and I begin to see how
you made it, but I can't tell you just yet, because I'm
not quite sure of my ground; and it's dangerous ground
we're treading, Jerry, you and I. Now here's another
crown — that one's for keeping your eye open — do you
know what the other's for? "
"Keeping your mouth shut. Don't you remember
anything about last night till I tell you — you wouldn't
understand if I was to explain. You're very young,
you know, Jerry lad, but smart's the word that de-
scribes you, and no mistaking. You're smart and bright
— as bright as the buttons on that sea captain's coat —
as bright as a thousand new guinea bits just served
from the mint — that's what you are, and no mistake!"
"I hope so," replied Jerk, stepping out of the front
door. "I thinks I am!"
"God bless you!" said the Doctor, shutting the door
and returning to Rash, who was waiting in the shuttered
room by the light of the guttering candles.
A LANDED PROPRIETOR SETS UF A GALLOWS TREE
BACK to the Ship and to duty went *' Hangman
Jerk," with much to think over in his bullet
head, and much to digest in his tight little
stomach. To make head or tail of the Doctor's re-
markable manner was beyond him, so he dismissed it
from his mind and instead fell to contemplating the two
silver crowns: one payment for keeping his weather eye
open — easily earned; the other — the schoolmaster's
safety — directly against his highest hopes; yes, a crown
was poor payment for that, especially as it was now
possible for himself to be the direct means of hanging
Approaching the bar door, he paused, for he heard
voices within, voices that he knew released him from
work, the voices of Mrs. Waggetts and the pride of her
life — the sexton Mipps.
Jerk knew exactly how the land lay with Mrs. Wag-
getts, and he was always wondering when (if ever) she
would succeed in folding that queer little man within
the safe bonds of matrimony. Now whatever Jerk's
failings may have been, he was loyal to his friends, and
102 DOCTOR SYN
Mrs. Waggetts was not only his friend but his employer,
and she had done him one or two very good turns. For
one thing, she had given him a money box in which to
save a portion of his weekly wage. That doesn't sound
a great deal on the surface, it is true, but her kindness
had not ended there, as you shall see. Jerk's teeth
were not sweet, like those of most boys of his age; he
never bought sweetmeats, barley sugar, and such child's
trash. No, when he wanted a pick-me-up it was a
grown man's pick-me-up that he indulged in — a pan-
nikin of rum, a whiff of tobacco, and a long-shot spit
at the china spittoon that stood in the front of the bar.
These indulgences had no effect on his purse, for the
cravings of the first two were easily satisfied from the
bar store when nobody was looking, and the third he
was at liberty to practise whenever he felt so disposed.
And thus it was that, although but approaching thirteen
years of age, he had through the good offices of the
landlady and a systematic use of her money box already
become a landed proprietor. When the landlady heard
that Jerk wanted to spend his savings on such a very
strange thing as land she had exclaimed in some surprise:
"Lord bless the boy! Land.^ What can a boy of
that age want with a plot of land.^ "
"The money's good enough, ain't it, ma'am.'^ Very
well, then, I wants land. A nice little bit of snug mud-
bank where I can hide and learn about the Marsh. If
I've a bit of mud wot's all mine on Romney Marsh —
SETS UP A GALLOWS TREE 103
well, I'll be a Marshman, I'll be, and it's a Marshman
proper I wants to be."
So Mrs. Waggetts consented, and bought a plot for
him situated about a mile and a half from the village
and a rough half mile from the sea. As land, it was of
no use in the commercial sense — in fact, the farmer had
thought the landlady clean crazed to buy it, though the
price was small enough as far as prices go on the Marsh.
It was more mud than land, surrounded by two broad
dykes that slowly oozed round to meet in a sluice chan-
nel. This was Jerk's estate, measuring twelve by ten
yards all told, and only solid in one spot near the centre,
a patch of about ten square feet which formed a knobby
mound surrounded by great bullrushes ; but the mound
was not such a small affair, for it rose high enough to
top the loftiest rush, and that is quite a noticeable
height on the flat of Romney Marsh. This mound was
given by its owner the dignified name of Lookout Moun-
tain, a name well deserved, for by sitting on the top
of it upon the great stone which he had dragged from
the sea-wall and carried a mile across the Marsh for the
purpose, he could see from Dover Cliffs to Dungeness,
and in the other direction the long line of hills which
bound the Marsh inland, with old Limpne Castle frown-
ing from the top. But Jerk wouldn't have changed
his stronghold for any other, Limpne Castle included;
it suited him admirably. From it he studied the
Marsh and the creatures therein: the great brown
104 DOCTOR SYN
water-rat that came out in the evening to hunt in the
rushes; the swift- winged dragon-fly that could stand
in midair stock still, as it seemed, to look at you; the
myriad mosquitoes with their fantastic air dance, hunt-
ing in tribes along the sluggish waters; the tadpole who
looped about in the water below; and more especially
the flabby flap of the night-prowling bat who hung all
day head downward from a decayed old tree trunk that
was rotting on the opposite bank to Jerk's estate. Now
this same tree trunk had put ideas into young Jerk's
head. It was obviously no good to any one, and yet
Jerk found himself regretting that it had not lived and
died upon his land, for it was shaped devilishly like a
gallows tree, and if he could only erect a gallows tree
upon the summit of Lookout Mountain he would be
more than ever living up to his reputable name of
Hangman Jerk. He half thought at one time of digging
it up and replanting it on his own property, but when he
had caught hold of a branch one day and it had crum-
bled away in his hand he considered that, although very
nice and weird to behold, it wasn't much use as a gen-
uine gibbet, and a genuine gibbet he then and there
resolved to possess. Now the silver crowns of Doctor
Syn would buy the most glorious scaffold, a regular
professional affair, fixed snug and firm in the ground,
and capable of supporting the weight of a wriggling
man. Mipps was the man to undertake the job, for
he was a first-rate carpenter, and there was wood and
SETS UP A GALLOWS TREE 105
to spare in the yard behind the coffin shop. Yes, if any
man could supply him with a gibbet Mipps could; and
there he was talking in the bar ready to hand, and here
were the silver crowns in Jerk's pocket. But to buy the
gibbet and then to have to keep his mouth shut about
the schoolmaster was no good. Mipps would never do
the job for one crown, but for two Jerk thought he
might. Well, he would see about that, and if he were
unsuccessful, he must find a way of raising the money,
and then, as soon as the apparatus was ready, he would
get Rash condemned, and offer the authorities the loan
of a brand-new gibbet. Oh, to watch the murderer
swinging from the top of Lookout Mountain, right
away on the lonely, windswept Marsh! That, indeed,
was a glorious thought. Yes, he must come to terms
with the undertaker at once — an undertaker now with a
vengeance — Rash's undertaker. But the little gentle-
man in question was talking to Mrs. Waggetts, so
Jerry had to wait in honour bound, for he was staunch
to his benefactress, and would not have interrupted for
the world. The conversation going forward in the bar
was carried on in earnest tones but low, and Jerk began
to think that Mrs. Waggetts was at last drawing the
sexton into a proposal of marriage, and his interest in
this one-sided love affair made him crouch by the bar
door in hopes of gathering up some scraps of the honeyed
words. But the few disjointed words he did catch were
more akin to passion than to love.
106 DOCTOR SYN
"Alsace Lorraine — one bottle gone ! Damn that cap-
Yes, there was passion there — not love. "We know
how to use the mist — they don't."
"It's safe enough. Lots of it to-night "
No, there was no vestige of love in that. And pres-
ently the conversation was terminated with the most
uncomplimentary remark from the sexton.
"You can lay your old topknot, and throw in your
face, that there'll be a good haul out to-night, and a
good haul in here," saying which, with a knowing slap
at his pocket, Mipps came hurriedly out of the bar
door and fell all a-sprawl over the crouching body of
"Why, in the name of all wot rots, can't you tell me
where you was.^^" cursed the sexton.
" 'Cos I prefers to tell you what I wants," replied
"Aye, that you do, if any one did."
"Will you make it for me, then.? " said the boy.
" What do you mean. '^ "
" What I says — will you make me one? "
"At a price."
"And that is?"
"Depends on the size. Wot do you want a gallows
SETS UP A GALLOWS TREE 107
"That don't concern you," returnedJerk. "You'll
have all you can do makin' it, without askin' questions."
"And you'll have all you can do, when it's made, a-
preventin' me a-stringin' you up on it, if I has any more
o' your impert'nence."
But Jerry was in no way put out, and replied :
"If you don't want to build my gallows, say so, and
I'll soon find some other cove wot does. Come, wot's
your price .f^"
"And wot's your game?"
"My business, not yourn," said the boy. "But
you'll find as how yourn won't improve by annoyin'
"Employers.'^ And who might they be now?" said
"Well, I'm a-tryin' to be one," said Jerk, jingling
the coins about in his pocket to lend weight to his
words. "W^hat price for a gallows, eh?"
The jingle of coins always made the sexton think.
"Wot size? "said he.
"Big enough and strong enough to hang a man on,
of course, and allowin' for a good foot or two of timber
in the earth."
The sexton scratched his head. " Well, I'm cursed ! "
"That's nought to me," replied Jerry. "Come on!
"Well, say two crowns for making and one for fixin'."
108 DOCTOR SYN
"One for makin' and one for fixin'," said Jerk, hold-
ing them out.
"No!" said the sexton, eying the coins.
"Then hang the fixin'!" cried the boy, "for I'll fix
it myself. So it's one for makin' and the wood, ain't
it. Mister Sexton.?^"
"No, it's two for makin', and I lose on that."
"Very well," agreed Jerk desperately, handing over
the money, "and please, Mister Sexton, make it now,
'cos I wants it quick."
So the bargain was struck there and then, and off
they both set to the coflfin shop to carry it out; and the
gallows was made by nightfall and set up on Jerk's
property, the sexton carrying it there himself, digging
the hole and fixing it up — a regular professional affair
with a jangly rusty chain a-swing through the hook —
and all this for the nominal price of two silver crowns,
lately received by the purchaser from Dr. Syn.
"Ah!" cried Jerk, as they viewed the completed
erection from the other side of the dyke; "ain't it fust
"Slap up," agreed the sexton.
"Quite strong, ain't it.^" inquired the owner anx-
iously, to which the sexton replied imperiously:
"It were Mipps as knocked it up, as you seed your-
self; and when Mipps knocks up, you can lay it's solid
wot's knocked," saying which he turned and strode off
toward the village, followed by Jerk.
SETS UP A GALLOWS TREE 109
When they had gone about half a mile Jerk looked
back and called to the sexton to do the same. Dark-
ness was already creeping over the Marsh, but sharp
and black against the skyline — no toy, but real, weird,
and convincing — stood Jerk's gibbet.
"What do you think of Lookout Mountain now.^"
sang out the boy.
"That you can better the name of it, Hangman Jerk.
Why not call it Gallows Tree Hill? "
** Why, so I will ! " cried the singular youngster. "It's
a good name, and so I will — and let's hope as how the
tree'll bear fruit."
"As how it won't," muttered the sexton.
"But it will, you can lay to that." Jerk could al-
ready picture the schoolmaster hanging there.
As they neared the village, with sudden fear Jerk said
to the sexton:
"I suppose the smugglers won't take my gibbet as a
personal offence and knock it down.'^" But the wary
Mipps disarmed his fears with :
"There ain't no smugglers, for one thing; 'sides, if
there was, how could they knock down wot's knocked
up so solid .^"
"Well, dig it up, p'raps," suggested Jerk, "'cos.
Mister Sexton, it do catch the eye some wot, don't it?
Look, you can see it even from here, and it don't look
exactly pleasant, do it?"
"Pleasant ain't exactly the word, I agrees, but you
110 DOCTOR SYN
needn't worry yourself on that score. If them damned
King's men had put it up now, I don't say as how it
mightn't get mobbed and knocked about a bit, 'cos
them damned King's men ain't wot you might term
popular favourites in the village, but as it weren't,
don't you worry, for I'll soon pass the word, young
Jerry, as how it's you wot owns it."
"Thank you," said Jerry. *'They wouldn't knock
it over if you asked 'em not to, I'll be bound."
"Asked who not to?" demanded the sexton quickly.
"Why, any of 'em," replied Jerk innocently: "Marsh-
men, smugglers, jack-o'-lanterns, demon riders, wot
you will; for I'll lay they're all a-scared of Sexton Mipps,
But Sexton Mipps was not to be caught by such
dangerous flattery, and he replied:
"There ain't no such things as smugglers hereabouts,
as I thinks I've already remarked; and as for demon
riders, why, uncanny they be, and I holds no truck
with 'em, thank the Lord. Folks wot has dealin's
with 'em has sold their souls for the bargain, and I ain't
a-goin' to do that!"
"Bein' such a very good and respectable Christian.'^
Oh, no !" said Jerk winking.
"Why, certainly," answered the sexton, "and might
I ask wot you're a-winkin' about?"
"Nothin'— I was only thinkin'!"
SETS UP A GALLOWS TREE 111
"A dream — a nightmare I had last night, that's all."
**Wot about?" asked the sexton again.
"Nothin' particular," returned the boy casually.
They had now reached the coffin shop, so, thanking
the sexton for his assistance. Jerk bade him good-night.
"Where are you bound for now?" Mr. Mipps called
"To tell the vicar as how I've borrowed a crown off
of him, that's all!"
" W^ot's that? " cried the sexton, making as if to follow,
but the boy waved him back with a fierce gesture.
" 'Tain't nothin' to do with you. You're paid, ain't
you? And it didn't get stole from the poor-box, neither,
so don't you start a-worritin'."
And thrusting his hands deep into his breeches pocket.
Jerk set off for the vicarage to tell Doctor Syn that
although he couldn't accept the silver crown for holding
his tongue, he had taken the liberty of borrowing it off
And in this way was the gibbet set up on Lookout
Mountain, and the name changed to Gallows Tree Hill.
THE schoolmaster's SUIT
IT WAS now dark. Jerk passed through the clus-
ter of quaint little houses that make up the one
street of Dymchurch-under-the-wall, and so on
to the vicarage. Just at the corner where the Court
House stands amid the great trees he heard sing-
ing, and recognized the voice and figure of Imogene.
She was carrying a basket from the direction of the
Ship and was probably bound, like himself, for the
vicarage. But as she passed the Court House she
paused, and to Jerk's astonishment felt among the ivy
that grew around the old front door. There in a cer-
tain branch was a piece of paper, which she took from
its hiding-place as if she had expected to find it. The
message it contained she read by the light of the lan-
tern that hung above the door, and then, thrusting it
into the bosom of her rough dress, she went on toward
the vicarage gate. But out from the shadows of the trees
stepped a man, whom Jerk perceived to be the school-
master. Imogene hesitated when she saw him, for he
was standing directly in her path, but when she tried to
hurry past, Rash stopped her and spoke.
THE SCHOOLMASTER'S SUIT 113
"So, Mistress, now that you have got your lover's
written promise from the ivy there, you think you can
afford to pass by such a humble one as the school-
master, but you're mistaken, and I'll trouble you to
show me that letter,"
The girl's hand went involuntarily to her bosom,
where the note in question was securely tucked away,
and she answered back clear and straight: "No, Mister
Rash, you've no right."
"Right is might, Mistress, as you'll find, and I think
we shall be able to come to terms now. I want you to
come along with me to the vicarage; Doctor Syn is there,
and I've something to say before you both."
"Let us go, then," said Imogene, trying to pass.
"x\ll in good time," returned the schoolmaster,
stopping her. "There's no immediate hurry, I think,
for the Doctor won't come out of that shuttered room
of his till morning, so we can afford to keep him waiting,
and I've something to say to you first — alone."
The girl tossed her head impatiently, as if she knew
what was coming, but Rash continued:
"A few weeks back I asked you to marry me — I, the
esteemed schoolmaster, asked you, the daughter of a
criminal; you, whose father was a proved murderer, a
dirty pirate hanged publicly at Rye for a filthy tavern
crime; you w^ho were born in a Raratonga drinking
hell, some half-caste native girl's brat ! Ecod ! it's laugh-
able! I offered to make you respectable and put your
114 DOCTOR SYN
banns up in the church, and you refused. Now I
know why. You think because that young fool Cob-
tree is pleased to admire you, that you will catch him
in your toils, do you? You're a clever one, ain't you.^^
I dare swear that sooner or later you'd succeed in
getting hold of him — let the young idiot ruin you, eh.^
Then make a virtuous song about it to the squire, and a
settlement to keep your mouth shut, perhaps."
"Beast!" cried the girl, and she struck him sideways
across the mouth with her clenched hand.
"Hello!" thought Jerk, crouching in the bushes,
"here's another one having a *go' at him; well, the
more the merrier, so long as I'm the last."
The schoolmaster recoiled, trying to look as if the
stinging blow had not hurt, but the blood was flowing
from his lip and from the hand of the girl as well.
"So that's it, is it.^^" he sniggered, "a real love match,
p'haps.'^ The squire's consent, the wedding bells, and
live happily ever after, eh.^ Ecod! my lady, I think
not. Rash is your man, see.^ and lucky you are to get
him; you whose father's gibbet chains are still swinging
"And yours are swinging a bit nearer than that!'*
said Jerry Jerk to himself.
"You leave my father out of it," w*ent on the girl,
"for from all I've heard of him he was a better man than
you, and he was fond of me, too; so it's lucky for you
he's not here to hear you speaking bad of his child."
THE SCHOOLMASTER'S SUIT 115
"You know nothing about him — ^he was a drunken
"Doctor Syn knew him well, and he's told me things.
A rough man he was, certain, and none rougher, reck-
less, too, and brave, a lawbreaker on land as well as sea,
pitiless to his enemies, staunch to his friends, but con-
temptible he never was; and so, Mister Rash, you can
afford to respect him, and I say again that I wish he
were here to make you."
"Shouldn't care if he was," replied the schoolmaster,
'*for there's always the law to look after a man."
"So there is," chuckled Jerk, "and that you'll find."
"Bah! what's the good of hagghng and squabbling?"
said Mr. Rash. "You're mine, or you'll have to bear
"And that is.^" asked the girl defiantly.
"The rope for your friends when I turn King's evi-
" You wouldn't dare, you coward, for you'd be hang-
ing yourself as well."
"King's evidence will cover me all square."
"So you're determined to turn it, are you.^^"
"I am, unless you change your mind."
The girl didn't reply to that, so Mr. Rash, thinking
that he was making an advance, continued :
"Think, Imogene — this Cobtree fellow will be packed
off to London in a month or so, and from there on to
Oxford; and after a university career of drinking.
116 DOCTOR SYN
gambling, and loose living, with precious little learning,
he'll settle down to the gentleman's life, marry some
person of quality, and you — eh? what of you, then?"
**I earn my living now, don't I?" replied the girl.
"Well, what's to prevent me going on the same?"
"Don't you want to marry?" went on the school-
master. "Don't you want a house of your own?
Don't you want to be the envy of all the girls in the
"Not at the price of my happiness; and, besides, I'm
not so sure that I do want all those things so desperate.
I'm afraid the wife of Mister Rash would be too genteel a
job for me."
"Oh, I'd soon educate you up to that," returned the
schoolmaster, looking pleased.
"It 'ud be a great nuisance to both of us, wouldn't
"I shouldn't mind — it would be a pleasant business
making a respectable woman of you, Imogene. You
see, you're not common like these village girls, and that's
what attracts me; otherwise, it might have been better
for me to have fixed my choice on one of them: one
that hasn't a bad mark against her, so to speak. But I
don't mind what folk say. I suppose they'll talk a bit
and laugh behind my back. Well, let 'em, say I. I
don't care, because I want you."
"Then it's a pity that I'm not the same way of think-
ing, isn't it?"
THE SCHOOLMASTER'S SUIT 117
"What do you mean?"
"That I wouldn't marry you — no, not though you
got the whole village the rope ! "
"You ungrateful wretch, not after all they've done
"You're not the sort of party to talk to others about
being ungrateful, are you now?"
"I wasn't born of jail folk."
"No; and you can hope your children, if you're ever
cursed with any, will be able to say the same, for I
doubt it very greatly. Mister Schoolmaster. And as
to your threats, I set no store on them, for from my
heart I despise you; I despise you because you would
be willing to betray your fellows, but I despise you
more because I know you are too great a coward to do
"We shall see," said the schoolmaster, "for who's to
"Parson Syn," answered the girl. "Parsons can
bear all manner of secrets and not betray them. That's
their business, and Doctor Syn's a good man, so I'll tell
him everything, and in his wisdom he'll find a means of
checking your contemptible scheme."
"That shows how little you know about things,
IVIistress Ignoramous; for it's that very same good man,
Doctor Syn, who is going to read out your banns on this
next Sabbath as ever is, and it's Rash who is going to
make him, and if you won't come along with me to
118 DOCTOR SYN
church, well, I'll threaten other parties in this little
place who'll help me to make you. Folk are none too
anxious to be exposed these days with King's men in
the village, and so you'll see " The schoolmaster
stopped talking suddenly.
THE DOCTOR SINGS A SONG
NOW, although Jerry had employed all his audi-
tory faculties for the overhearing of this con-
versation, he had unconsciously listened to
something else: a slight noise that now and again came
from the direction of the vicarage, a small, whirring noise,
the kind of noise that he had heard in Mipps's coffin
shop when a tool was working its way through a
piece of wood — yes, a whirring noise with an occasional
squeak to it.
He hadn't bothered to ask himself what it was; he
had just gone on hearing it, that's all. But now an-
other noise arose in the night that not only claimed his
immediate attention but made him feel cold all over.
It had the same effect upon Mr. Rash, for he stopped
talking suddenly and gripped the post of the gate with
one hand and with the other pulled Imogene roughly
into the denser black of the bushes; and then the noise
grew louder and louder. What at first could only be
described as a gibbering moan rose into shriek after
shriek of mortal terror: a man's voice, a man scared
out of all knowledge; and then over the gate leaped a
120 DOCTOR SYN
dark form, agile and quick, that went bounding away
through the ghostly churchyard. There was some-
thing familiar in that figure to Jerk. He had seen it
almost from the same spot the night before. It was the
man with the yellow face. The schoolmaster came out
from the bushes, followed by Imogene. Quickly they
went through the gate and toward the vicarage, and
silently Jerk followed, with his heart thumping loud
against his ribs; for although the echoes of those drum-
cracking shrieks still vibrated in his ears, the gibbering
moans still continued.
To the back of the house went the girl and the school-
master, and to the front went Jerk. It was all dark —
indeed no lights were showing from any of the rooms
but one, and that was the Doctor's sitting-room with
the shutters still close fastened; but a jagged little hole
in the corner of one of the shutters sent a shaft of yellow
candlelight straight out into the blackness. Yes, the
gibbering moaning was coming from the Doctor's room.
Jerk crossed a bed of flowers and a gravel path and
applied his eye to the jagged hole in the shutter. This
little hole accounted for the whirring and squeak-,
ing that he had just heard, for it was newly cut, and
Jerk put his hand upon several little pieces of split
wood that had fallen upon the outer sill. It was
plain that the awful apparition he had just seen had
been looking into the room. He had evidently made
the hole for the purpose, and made it with that awful
THE DOCTOR SINGS A SONG 121
weapon he carried, that same harpoon over which so
much talk had been expended at the Com-t House
inquiry. Now the shutter, being an outside shutter,
backed right against the lead-rimmed glass casement,
and thus it was that Jerk had to wait for a few con-
siderable seconds before seeing plainly anything in the
room, for the candlelight flickered and danced upon
the glass. But the very second he had put his eye to
the hole the moans within the room steadily rose, and
Jerk's thumping heart increased its already unnatural
pace, for he expected the loud shrieks to follow, though
he could not understand their motive. But soon his
eye got accustomed to the light, and one thing in the
room became visible, the form of Doctor Syn. He was
sitting in a high-backed chair in the centre of the room,
gripping the oaken arms with his long, white fingers, and
upon his face w^as a look of indescribable horror : his neck
being stretched up alert and straight, his eyes dilated
to a most disproportionate stare, glazed and terrible; his
hair unkempt, and his thin legs pressing hard against
But his mouth was neither set nor rigid, like the rest
of his members — his mouth was loose and hanging
open — such a mouth as the madman carries; and from
it was coming that inarticulate gibber, that gibbering
moan that had arrested the hearing of Jerry Jerk.
Straight at the shutter stared the demented Doctor;
straight into Jerk's eye at the jagged hole, and suddenly
122 DOCTOR SYN
his hand shot out over the table; he picked up the great
plated candelabra, and hurled it, lighted candles and all,
full at the window. Jerk started back to the rattle of
glass, and at the same time a heavy hand fell upon
his shoulder, and another was passed over his mouth,
while a familiar voice whispered in his ear : " For God's
sake be quiet! " It was the captain, and he stood hold-
ing the boy tightly, keeping his eye on the jagged
hole, and with something approaching terror upon his
strong face. It was dark now, of course, for there was
no light in the house, but presently Jerk and the
captain heard low, frightened voices, and a light
showed suddenly through the hole. The captain
stooped and put his eye to it. Yes, the door of the
Doctor's sitting-room was opening, and Imogene and
the schoolmaster came into the room. Imogene came
first, with a lighted candle held high above her
The Doctor was now kneeling on the floor straight up.
He had a black bottle in his hand; the same rum bottle
from which he had treated Jerk that very day. He
seemed to recognize Imogene, for he smiled as she en-
tered, smiled as he slowly raised the bottle and tilted
the contents, neat and raw, down his vibrating throat.
And then he saw the schoolmaster. His upper lip
twitched, curled, and rose, disclosing his white upper
teeth; his underlip stretched down and showed his
lower teeth, shining white, that glistened underneath
THE DOCTOR SINGS A SONG 123
the bottle's neck. There was a snap and a quick
crunching sound. The captain gasped for breath, for
Doctor Syn had bitten through the glass neck, and
seized the bottle by the broken end. Slowly he dragged
one leg from the kneeling position and pushed it out
before him; slowly he fixed his other foot like a firm
spring behind him. Terrified, Mr. Rash sprang back
against the wall, with the blood still trickling from his
cut lip, and motionless stood the girl Imogene, with the
candle held above her head. Syn was in position to
spring. Rash was waiting to be seized, and nothing
moved in the room save the slowly oozing blood on
the schoolmaster's lipj vivid against the pale lantern
jaw, and the blood and ground glass that glistened in
a saliva stream that hung from the cleric's mouth.
Nothing else moved at all, except perhaps the light shed
by the flickering candle, which danced shadows of the
two weird men upon the whitewashed v/alL And then
with a hissing sound Syn made a leap, swinging the
bottle as he did so, and bringing it down with a sicken-
ing crash on the white face before him. Down went
Rash, senseless, blinded with blood and the shivered
glass. Then Syn laughed, and sang at the top of his
''Here's to the feet wot have walked the plank,
Yo hoi for the dead man's throttle.
And here's to the corpses floating round in the tank,
And the dead man's teeth in the bottle."
124 DOCTOR SYN
And as he sang he danced, and stamped the senseless
face beneath his feet; and then he sang again, roaring
new words to the eternal old tune :
"A pound of gunshot tied to his feet,
And a ragged bit of sail for a winding shee' ;
Then out to the sharks with a horrible splash.
And that's the end of Mr. Rash."
And with diabolical glee he leaped again, and landed
with both feet upon the victim's face.
All this time the girl stood still. Like a statue she
stood, with the candle high above her head; and the
terrible cleric went on with the song: new words, but
still a corruption of the same old tune, which he roared
and screamed in the very whirlwind of his uncon-
"And all that isn't ripped by the sharks outside
Stands up again upon its feet upon the running tide."
Taking the prostrate body, he lifted it on to its feet and
leered into its face; then letting go of it, he watched it
fall and collapse in a heap.
"And it kept a-bowing gently and a-looking with surprise
At the little crabs a-scrambling from the sockets of its eyes."
The captain then shouted, shouted at the top of his
voice, and tore at the fast, firm shutter. The song
ceased in the room. The light once more went out of
the jagged hole, and there was the noise of a falling
THE DOCTOR SINGS A SONG 125
body. Probably the girl had fainted. The shutters
were strong and wouldn't give.
** The back door ! " shrieked the terrified Jerry. " The
back door is open!" And around to the back rushed
the captain, followed by the boy. And as he ran he
blew three shrill calls upon a silver whistle that he
carried on a chain. The whistle was answered with
another, and before the captain had found and opened
the back door, the captain's bo'sun had appeared from
the bushes, followed by a strong party of the King's
men. The bo'sun made a light from his tinder box,
and as they were finding a candle in the back kitchen
they could hear some one moving about in the sitting-
BEHIND THE SHUTTERS
THANK God somebody's brought a light, for I
don't know what hasn't happened here. Ah,
Captain, it's you, is it ? " The speaker was Doc-
tor Syn — he was eahnly kneeling over the form of Mr.
Rash. He had, in fact, propped his head upon his knee
and was dabbing the bleeding face with his clean hand-
*' Just get the brandy bottle out of that corner cup-
board, will you, my man.^ " he said to the bo'sun. "The
girl there has fainted. Nothing serious, just sheer
The bo'sun did as he was ordered, and Imogene was
quickly restored to consciousness.
The captain for the most part just stared at Syn and
said nothing. Suddenly he passed his hand over his
brow and wiped away the great beads of perspiration
that had gathered there; then taking the brandy bottle
from the bo'sun's hand he took a long pull, and with a
sigh sat down in the armchair, still staring at Doctor
Syn with unconcealed amazement.
"Feeling a bit squeamish, Captain.^" said the latter,
smiling. "You're right, it's an ugly sight. More
BEHIND THE SHUTTERS 127
blood than necessary, though. Merely flesh cuts.
Bruised a bit, too! Help yourself to brandy. Good
evening, Jerry; pleased to see you. Here's your poor
schoolmaster got hurt. Feeling better, Captain ? That's
good. The sight of blood does turn one up. Was it
Hannibal or Hamilcar who never could reconcile him-
self to the sight of blood .^^ I forget. Some great
general it was, though. The girl here is the same.
Better, Imogene.^ Siu'ely it was Hannibal, wasn't it.^"
"I am sure I don't know, or care," thundered the
captain, standing up and turning desperately on the
bo'sun. "Job Mallet, what in hell's name is all this
business.f^ I'm dazed."
But Doctor Syn went on speaking in his usual col-
lected tones : " It's all very horrible, I grant, but there's
no mystery, I assure you. We were all three chatting
here quite pleasantly, when in leaps that mulatto of
yours, attacks my friend the schoolmaster and all but
kills him. I picked up a bottle and landed the brute a
crack over the head. The bottle broke, and the mad-
man turned on me, clapped a bit of broken glass in my
mouth, which I expect is cut about a bit, and got away.
I asked the girl to hold the light, and when she saw the
schoolmaster's face, why, over she went, candle and all,
into a dead faint. Never saw such a thing in my life, but I
tell you this. Captain : it's your bounden duty to get hold
of that maniac and string him up to the nearest tree, for
there's not a man, woman, or child safe while he's free."
128 DOCTOR SYN
Then Doctor Syn helped them to move the still un-
conscious Rash into his own bedroom, leaving the bo'-
sun and two seamen in charge, the rest of the sailors
returning to the vicarage barn; and finally muffling
himself in his great cloak he proceeded to the inn to
procure a room for the night. Supporting Imogene,
he walked ahead, followed by the captain and Jerry
Jerk bearing a lantern.
"Potboy.^ " said the captain on the way.
"Sir?" said Jerry Jerk.
"Are we dreaming, or what.^"
"Bio wed if I know; w^ish I did."
On reaching the inn they all agreed that it was none
too safe to walk abroad that night again, for fear of that
sinister mulatto out upon the Marsh, so they ordered
the supper and rooms to be got ready, and for an hour
or so the Doctor chatted of indifferent things, just as if
nothing had happened.
But the captain kept silent that night; he had many
things in his head that he couldn't understand, and the
greatest of these was Doctor Syn, that pious old cleric,
who was making himself so pleasant over a steaming
bowl of punch; and as the parlour clock ticked on, and
the room was filled with tobacco smoke which the par-
son kept sending in thin rings across the fireplace, the
captain rubbed his eyes hard, fidgeted and shuffled in his
chair, wondering when the dream would stop and he
would find himself awake.
THE captain's NIGHTIVIARE
PRESENTLY the captain yawned and Doctor
Syn rose and summoned Mrs. Waggetts. The
captain yawned again and rubbed his eyes.
Was he awake or dreaming? The last thing he re-
membered was drinking the hot rum punch and listen-
ing to a long story that he thought the Doctor would
never finish. What a soothing efi'ect that punch seemed
to have on his faculties, for after that he was rather
vague. He dreamt he w^as lifted up sleeping, lifted up
by two men who had followed Mrs. Waggetts from
the bar when Doctor Syn had called her. Was one
of those men that insolent Sexton Mipps.^ He vaguely
thought it was, though he wouldn't be sure. No,
he wouldn't be sure of anything! He thought he
had been carried up to bed, but that was too silly,
for who would carry him up to bed.^^ Was it Doctor
Syn who had said to Mipps on the stairs that he
wasn't going riding to-night for a thousand guineas,
and that they must do without him for once.^ Then
"That yellow beast ain't a-lookin' out for Clegg's
130 DOCTOR SYN
carpenter, is he? Well, I'll go, it don't want us both
Then the dream got more confused than ever. There
was a lonely reef in the coral seas, and on it was a weird
figure calling. The captain seemed to be on a ship that
was standing away from the reef, and all the time the
figure kept calling. There was a full ship's crew col-
lected on the deck who were threatening two men.
One was a familiar figure, a figure he had not seen often
out of his dreams, and so was his little companion, and
still the voice kept calling. The crew pushed forward
a spokesman: he was a Chinaman — they called him
by a nickname — Pete. Pete sheepishly advanced and
stammered out to the familiar figure, whom he addressed
as "Captain," to put the ship about, and take up again
the lonely form calling from the reef. Pete's argument
was evidently useless, for as he turned to join his fel-
lows, the tallest of the familiar figures stretched out his
hand and caught the yellow man — he was clad in the
scanty garb of a cook — and broke his naked back with a
marlin-spike that the little companion of the familiar
figure had handed to him. Then the crew were com-
manded to throw the body overboard or they would
be served the same. This they did, and the sharks sur-
rounded the ship, clacking their teeth. Then the
breeze seemed to blow off the reef, and the familiar
figure ordered the men aloft to unfurl the sails. They
obeyed sullenly, and still the voice, getting fainter and
THE CAPTAIN'S NIGHTIMARE 131
fainter, called from the reef, and the breeze increased,
and the captain and his mate ordered the men the
"Get up aloft there, you dogs! Get up! Get up! Get
The familiar figure then caught sight of the dreamer
(though he wasn't sure that he was dreaming even yet) ,
and striding up to him ordered him aloft, and when he
refused he dragged him up by the arm. The dreamer
felt dizzy, for tlie sails were blowing in his face, and he
thought he would let go, it was so like his first experi-
ence aloft; and he begged the familiar figure to let him
go down, but the voice went on crying: "Up! Get
up! Get up!"
Then the sail was pulled from his face, the wind blew
through his hair, and he started up, catching hold of a
stay (which turned out to be the bedpost), and letting
the sail fall below^ upon the deck, which in reality was
the bedclothes slipping to the floor, and still the voice
cried: "Get up! Get up!" And he recognized there
the familiar face and form of Doctor Syn, and by him
his companion. Sexton ]Mipps.
" Get up ! Get up ! " the parson was crying. "What a
fellow to sleep you are ! Like waking the dead ! Upon
my soul, it is, Mr. Mipps."
The captain rubbed his eyes again.
The sun was streaming through the window, which was
open, and a good stiff breeze was blowing in from the sea.
132 DOCTOR SYN
"What the devil!" said the captain. "Oh, it's
Doctor Syn, is it? What's the time? "
"Just on ten o'clock," said the cleric.
"Ten o' what?" bellowed the captain, leaping out of
"Clock," repeated Mr. Mipps.
"I've overslept. Thing I've never done in my life.
Been dreaming, too. Nightmares — horrible ! But what
do you want? Is anything the matter? "
"I think there is," said the Doctor quietly.
"And so do I," said Mr. Mipps.
"What? What's wrong? What's happened?"
"I don't quite know yet, it may be nothing at all, but
I don't like the look of it."
"The look of what?" shouted the captain.
"The vicarage," replied the vicar. "Put on your
clothes quickly. Captain, and come and see. I think
there's something wrong."
A TERRIBLE INVESTIGATION
THE captain was not long in tumbling into his
clothes. Meantime, the sexton sat upon the
bed, which neither of the other two seemed to
think extraordinary or even familiar. The captain
now and then addressed a sharp question to the Doctor,
which the Doctor did not answer, nor indeed did the
captain seem to expect an answer. The Doctor was
standing by the window, his gray hair blowing in the
stiff sea breeze that filled the room. Suddenly they
heard a little shaking noise upon the bed, and, turning,
perceived the little sexton, with the tears rolling down
his cheeks, given up to the most ungovernable laughter,
and yet it was not laughter, for the sexton made no
noise. He just let his body quiver and heave and the
tears roll on over his thin cheeks. Yes, he was lost
in a fit of unmanageable giggles.
"What the thunder's amusing you?" roared the
captain; and he hurled the bolster at the sexton's
Mipps was himself again upon the instant.
"Blessed if I knows," he gasped, "but thank you
134 DOCTOR SYN
kindly for that bolster whack, for if something hadn't
happened I believe I should have bust."
"But what is it? There must have been something
to make you laugh like that."
"If there was, I'm blessed if I knows wot," returned
the sexton, "for I gives you my word that I never felt
solemner than I does now, no, not never in my life."
Doctor Syn took no notice of this extraordinary oc-
When the captain was dressed they all three set out
for the vicarage.
"Well, now, what is wrong with it?" said the cap-
tain, surveying the little house that looked so pretty
in the morning sun.
"That's just what we want to know," answered Doc-
tor Syn. "In the first place, short of forcing the door, I
don't see how we're going to get in. The place is all
locked up, and, though we have battered and hammered
on the doors and windows for a good hour, we can get
no answer from the sailors inside."
"And my men in the barn, where are they?" said
the captain, looking across at the building in question.
"I'm afraid. Captain, that you are too liberal to your
men, for their rum barrel is empty and the whole lot of
them are still asleep."
The captain swore and walked to the back door,
raised his foot, and with one kick sent the door in,
splintered and cracked from the bolt sockets.
A TERRIBLE INVESTIGATION 135
"Neatly done!" remarked Doctor Syn, "though
who's to pay for a new door? "
But the captain did not heed him, nor care a brass
farthing for the door, he was bent on investigating the
house, which he did, followed by Mipps and the Doctor
and Jerry Jerk, who had appeared from somewhere,
nobody quite knew where.
The kitchen was empty, so the captain opened the
door of the sitting-room ; it was very dark because of the
The captain strode across to the broken window,
threw it open, and unbolted the shutters, which, swing-
ing back, let in the light of day. In the corner of the
room opposite the window lay the two sailors who had
been left to watch with the bo'sun. Both were bound
and gagged, and one of them was moving. The cap-
tain loosed his bonds with a clasp knife, and the fellow
seemed to recover his senses.
"What does this mean, my man?" said the cap-
The sailor turned and pointed to the body of his
friend. It lay half propped up against the wall, and
above it was a large splintered tear in the whitewashed
plaster. There were blood marks on this part of the
wall. And then the captain saw and understood, for
the neck of the propped-up body had been cruelly
pierced, although there was no sign of a weapon; but
some weapon had transfixed that body to the wall and
136 DOCTOR SYN
then been plucked out, so that the body had collapsed
amid a mess of broken plaster.
*'It's Bill Spiker, sir," said the sailor. "He's dead!
He was a good gunner, sir, too. We wanted Spiker,
sir, to fight the French — and he's dead!" And the
sailor broke off blubbering.
Just then they all became aware of a moaning over-
"What's that?" said Mipps, beginning to giggle.
Indeed the uncanny atmosphere of the vicarage that
morning had upset them all.
"I'm sure I don't know," said the captain, "for I've
had my fill of horrors. I don't mind blood and I don't
mind fighting, but these mysteries are horrible. What
the devil is that moaning.^ "
"That'll be Job Mallet, captain's bo'sun," said the
"Or Rash, the sick schoolmaster," said Doctor Syn.
But Mipps said nothing; he had left the room and was
now out in the passage, suffering from another attack of
"Damn that sexton's body and soul!" ejaculated the
captain; "his giggling gives one the creeps. What's
tickling him now.f^"
"Unstrung," muttered the vicar, as he followed the
captain up the dark stairs to the bedroom.
There in the bed, last night occupied by Mr. Rash,
lay the fat bo'sun on his back, with his face gagged up
A TERRIBLE INVESTIGATION 137
and covered with a nightcap. Dreadful moans he was
making as he lay there.
The captain pulled the bedclothes off, and discovered
that the faithful fellow was tied to the bed. Grateful
he looked, though troubled, when the captain cut his
bonds and pulled him up; and he owned in a shamefaced
manner that he never had endured such a horrible night
in his life, and that Parson Syn (saving his presence)
must be the foul fiend himself to be able to sleep in such
a devil-haunted house.
Doctor Syn went downstairs and fetched the brandy
bottle, and administered a good dose to the bo'sun, and
also to the other seamen who had followed them up-
**And where's the schoolmaster got to.^^'* said the
**Gone.^" they all repeated together.
"Aye, sir, gone! And if ever a man has gone body
and soul, I declares he has; for I solemnly and soberly
declares that I seed him hoisted up and removed down-
stairs by a couple of horrible light-faces."
"Light-faces.^ " roared the captain.
"Yes, sir, coves with faces all a-shine. Why, I
wouldn't settle down and live within a hundred miles
of Romney Marsh for a thousand guineas a year pen-
sion, I wouldn''t; for talk about devils, the place stinks
138 DOCTOR SYN
"Now, look here, my man," said the captain, "just
pull yourself in a brace or two and tell me what hap-
"Why, so I will," said the bo'sun, "for queer, most
queer it be."
THE BO'sUN's story
NOTHING happened, sir, for some hour or so
after you left, and then things made up for lost
time, as 'twere, and came fast and quick. I
was sitting outside this here room with the door on the
jar — outside I was, 'cos I couldn't bear the sight of that
schoolmaster's face. I think you'll own yourself, sir,
that it wasn't just exactly wot you might call 'a pleas-
ant evening face' especially, a-battered about as it was.
Poor Bill Spiker and Morgan Walters here was asleep
downstairs, for we'd agreed that I should stand first
"Well, the boys had brought us over our allowance of
rum from the barn, and we'd all had a drop, though I
kept most of mine to the end of my watch, thinking to
use it for a nightcap, as 'twere, but the little drop I did
get was making me feel very drowsy, and I began to
think the next hour would never go, when I could wake
up Bill Spiker. Presently I hears a noise of galloping
horses. I goes to the window on the stairs there, and
looks out. Right along the road I could see those same
riders with Kt-up faces wot I'd seed the night before
140 DOCTOR SYN
last. I know it was them, 'cos I could see their faces,
you understand, when quite sudden I was seized from
behind and pulled over backwards down the stairs. I
fought the best I could, but there was a sort of over-
powering smell upon a 'kerchief wot had been pulled
over my mouth, and I was lifted up on four men's
shoulders, as it seemed. I couldn't see anything of
their faces, but as I went up the stairway on their
shoulders I just remember a-seein' that schoolmaster
a-comin' down in the same fashion as I w^as a-goin' up,
only that he only required two to hold him. Now,
whether this was because I was heavier, I don't know,
or whether 'cos he was only a-comin' down while I was
a-goin' up, or whether the things wot had got hold of
me was real or sham, as 'twere, but certain am I the
two things wot had the schoolmaster — and things I must
call 'em, though they was a bit like men — had got the
same shiny faces all alight, just like wot them demon
riders had; and then I don't remember nothing else till
I was woke up by hearin' a sort of horrible shriek down-
stairs which I thought was just a dream, but now sup-
pose was poor Bill a-voicin' his last opinion in this world,
as 'twere. After that I went to sleep again; then I was
waked up again by a sort of groanin', which I finds was
myself, and then in comes you after a long time and
lets me go, as 'twere, and that's all I knows, so help me
God, sir; but quite enough for one night, as I thinks
THE BO'SUN'S STORY 141
Morgan Walters then gave his version of what hap-
pened in the night, which bore out certain points of the
He had soon fallen into a deep sleep, but was awak-
ened with a feeling that something was wrong. He
tried to move but couldn't; indeed, he could scarcely
breathe. The only things that he could see were two
dark forms moving about the room, but their faces were
lit up by a curious light. These two things passed out
of the room, and then for what seemed an interminable
time Morgan Walters worked away at his bonds, and
presently became aware that his companion was doing
likewise. They couldn't talk, for they found that, just
as soon as they tried to, the breath that they took in
through the ansesthetic overpowered their senses. Pres-
ently INIorgan Walters thought that he could hear the
sound of horses. It sounded like a regiment of pack-
ponies trotting on the highroad — *'tlip tlop" they went,
a slow **tlip tlop," and a lot of them, too. These were
his very words. Then he heard a sigh of satisfaction
from his companion, and saw him stand up, for he had
partially unbound himself. Whether to let in the re-
freshing sea sir, or whether he had also heard the horses
and wanted to locate them, Morgan Walters couldn't
say, but Bill Spiker had got to the broken window and
unbolted the shutters. He felt the cold air come into
the room with a great gasp, and then he seemed to have
dozed off again, but the next thing he heard was a great
142 DOCTOR SYN
scream of agony, and turning over he beheld Bill Spiker
embracing the wall, and the wall held him up, for there
was a weapon transfixed to it through his companion's
neck. The very horror and sudden surprise of the
thing caused Morgan Walters to make a superb effort,
and he somehow stood upon his feet. Then came a
curious thing: He saw between himself and the now
repulsive form of his fellow a man — a yellow-faced man
— the mulatto seaman. With one hand the creature
plucked the weapon from the wall and drew it back
through the bleeding neck that held it. This was
strangely vivid to Morgan Walters, and he could recall
his thought of wonder that the blood in no way stained
the yellow hand that drew the reeking steel from the
flesh. The body of Bill Spiker fell from the wall and
collapsed in a heap, and a hand seemed to strike Mor-
gan Walters at the same time, for he lost consciousness
again and remembered little else.
"Did the mulatto touch you?" asked the captain,
speaking suddenly and rather loud, so that all in the
room gave a perceptible start. "Think well, my man."
"I am quite certain of that, sir. I know he did not /"
"And yet you were knocked down!"
"So it seems, sir, but it may have been just losing
consciousness again. I've never fainted before, so
perhaps it was that, or the effects of the smelly stuff on
the 'kerchief. "
"And you remember nothing else?"
THE BOSUN'S STORY 143
"One thing, though whether I dreamt that or not I
couldn't swear to, but it seemed that when I come to
something Hke myself the dawn was breaking, for the
room was filled with a gray light, when suddenly some-
thing came into the room and closed those shutters.
Then I fell off into another sort of sleep and dreamt
that people were trying to wake me up by banging on
the shutters, and then at last — hours after it, it seemed
— you came, sir, and freed me."
"One moment," said the captain; "this something
that closed the shutters — a man.'^"
"Yes, like a man."
"Like what man.^"
"Well, sir, it was like one of them devils that I'd
seen leaving the room that night. It also reminded
me — yes, it reminded me of that gentleman there,
a-standing at that door — that sexton; in fact, now I
comes to think of it and look at him, I remembers dream-
ing a lot about him in the night."
"Thank you kindly," said Mr. Mipps, who was in-
deed listening to the narrative from the door, "but
don't trouble to drag me into it, mate. I gives you my
word that we were all as merry as crickets till you
King's men come nigh the place, and as for talks of
demons and such like, well, there's always gossip of
such, of course, but since you fellows come aboard, the
talk's been of nothing else; and murders, too. WTiy,
we'd never heard of murders, except, of course, in church
144 DOCTOR SYN
we'd heard as how there was such things. We was as
happy and contented a pleasant-going Httle village as
you could have wished, we was; but now, so help me God !
you fellows have turned our little spot into a regular
witches' kitchen, that you have. Two days you've
been here, and two murders we've had — one a day —
and if you stays here for a year, as you can calculate
for yourself, we'll have three hundred and sixty-five, at
the present rate. Of course it's good for my trade, so I
says nothing. Go on murdering to your hearts' content,
for I can knock up one a day all right, but I ain't
a-goin' to take any blame about it, and, wot's more, I
object to being dreamt about; so another night kindly
leave me out of your adventures, 'cos I don't like bein'
mixed up with such traffic."
Saying which Mipps stepped across to the corpse of
Bill Spiker, and, producing his footrule, measured him
up, and entered the same in a dirty notebook.
The captain then proceeded to the barn and soundly
rated his still drowsy men; and putting the bo'sun in
charge of the corpse, he asked Doctor Syn to join him for
breakfast at the Ship. And as there was no school-
master, and consequently no school, Jerry Jerk had the
extreme pleasure of waiting upon them.
A CURIOUS BREAKFAST PARTY
DURING the meal Jerry took good stock of both
men. The captain's manner was sullen and
grumpy. He was turning things over in his
mind that he was incapable of solving — things alto-
gether out of his ken. Doctor Syn, on the other hand,
seemed eager to discuss all these curious events, but
underlying his interesting, polished, quiet conversation
there smouldered a nameless fear which now and then
burst into flames of enthusiastic fury — fury against the
captain's apparent inactivity in taking measures to
find and capture the mysterious mulatto. But he never
went too far, never said anything that his tact could
not smooth over; in fact, he was at great pains not to
quarrel with the captain, like the squire had done,
for the captain was evidently very sensitive within that
rough exterior, as he had shown by not attempting to
patch up his quarrel with the squire.
So Jerry watched them as they breakfasted in the
sanded parlour of the Ship, keeping in the room all he
could and dreading to be dismissed.
Presently the captain turned to him and inquired
146 DOCTOR SYN
whether he had breakfasted. Jerry replied that he
certainly had had a snack or two, but that broiled fish
always did go down very pleasant with bread and butter
and fresh milk, and accepted with alacrity the invitation
from the captain to bring a chair and help himself.
The captain got up, filled a pipe and lit it, and the
Doctor did the same; then both men pushed their
plates to the centre of the table, leaning their elbows
on the cleared space; and Jerry in the centre, for all the
world like a judge of some quaint game of skill, watched
the opponents as they drew deliberately at their pipes,
sending preliminary battle clouds across the table before
the real tussle began — aye, a fight of brains, each one
desirous of ascertaining how much the other knew or
guessed about these strange events, but each very fear-
ful of betraying what he guessed. So Jerry watched
them, feeling certain that a battle was imminent, won-
dering upon what side he would be called to fight,
and what the end of it all would be; but with all his
watching and wondering he didn't forget to eat, and
eat heartily, too, for Jerry's maxim was, "Eat when
you can, and only think when you've got to."
The captain spoke first.
"Doctor Syn, you heard me say at that inquiry
yesterday that I was no strategist, that I was only a
"I did," returned the cleric.
"I know everything inside, outside, and around-
A CURIOUS BREAKFAST PARTY 147
about a ship, but I don't know much else, and certainly
nothing else thoroughly, so to speak. But I have seen
other things in my time, for all that, just as any one
who travels is bound to see things, and, just as any one
else that travels, I have remembered a few things out-
side my business, just a few; the rest I've forgotten.
Now you're different from that, for you're a scholar
and have travelled widely, too, and a man who can use
his book knowledge with what he comes in contact
with in the world is the sort of man who might perhaps
explain what's bothering me at the present moment,
for I am dense; you are not."
"What is bothering you. Captain.'^ Of course some-
thing to do with these murders that are uppermost in
"Something, I dare say," replied the captain slowly,
weighing his every word, "but, on the other hand,
maybe it's nothing. I can't connect the two things
myself, and yet I've a feeling that I ought to be able to.
I've tried, though, tried hard, been trying all through
breakfast, and it worries me, because, as a man of
action, thinking always does worry me sorely. You
may laugh at what I am going to tell you; if you do I
shan't take offence, because it's precisely what I should
have done had any one told me about what I'm going
to tell you, something that" — the captain hesitated,
speaking as if he longed to keep silent; speaking as if
afraid of being disbelieved — "something — well, I'll tell
148 DOCTOR SYN
you first that is sounds ridiculous on the face of it, but
something which — well, which I saw myself J*
"Tell me," said the cleric, leaning farther forward
over the table.
The captain sat up rigid in his chair, took his pipe
from between his lips, and spoke as if repeating a lesson
that he didn't understand.
"Once in a Cuban towTi, in a little Cuban town —
can't remember the precise longitude and latitude —
but that's no matter, and I can't even remember the
name of the town or what I was doing there exactly,
but that has no odds on the story."
"Go on," said the cleric.
"Well, in this little Cuban town I saw an old priest
die. He was as dead as this table, you understand;
the doctor said so, and I knew it. Well, imagine my
horror when half an hour after death this old man arose,
entered the next hut, and deliberately, brutally, and
carefully stabbed a sleeping child to death."
The Doctor said nothing, but just looked at the
Jerry stopped eating and looked at Doctor Syn. He
was pale, very pale.
Then the captain leaned over the table and con-
tinued speaking, but not like a lesson, for there was a
thrill in his voice that carried conviction, so Jerry
looked at him.
"I found out afterward that the dead fellow had
A CURIOUS BREAKFAST PARTY 149
borne a lifelong grudge against his neighbour. The
revenge that he had somehow failed to get during his
lifetime he accomplished after his death. It was devil-
"It was a devilish trick," explained the Doctor. " The
fellow was feigning death to a good purpose — namely,
to put his neighbour off his guard. He was not really
dead. It would be against all laws of nature — why, of
course it would — for a man to arise and walk and
commit a foul murder half an hour after his decease!
Nonsense, fanciful nonsense!"
"Against the laws of nature, I'll allow," went on
the captain, as if he had fully expected that his story
would be disbelieved, "but if you'll excuse me saying
so, who are you. Doctor Syn, and for the matter of that
who am I, to say what the laws of nature are, or to dare
to affirm just how far they extend.^ For my own part,
I should prefer to question my own ignorance rather
than the laws of nature."
"But in what way do you hint at a connection
between this story and our present trouble in the village
owing to this murdering-mad seaman?"
"Why, just this," went on the captain deliberately.
"When you caught sight of this same murdering-mad
seaman — you remember, last night, outside the barn — I
noticed that you took cold all of a sudden; you got the
"Marsh ague — marsh ague," put in the cleric quickly.
150 DOCTOR SYN
"Get it often in this place. Poor old Pepper used to
tell me that it was the result of malaria I once had
badly in Charleston, Carolina; nearly lost my life
with it. Mosquito poisoning which brought on rag-
ing malaria. I dare say he was right: I'm a frequent
sufferer. As soon as the mists rise from the Marsh I get
"Ah, then there falls one of my points to the ground.
Still I have another ready. Suppose we grant that your
attack of ague had nothing to do with your sudden
meeting with this man."
"Of course it hadn't," muttered the Doctor. "Ab-
"Very well, then, did you notice that the entire
weight of the rum barrel was carried by Bill Spiker, the
"No," said the Doctor, "I didn't notice that."
"No more did Bill Spiker," said the captain; "you
can lay to that, or he would have soon raised objections;
but I did notice it, because it's my business to note
which of my men work hardest, you understand ; for in
cases of preferment I have to give my opinion."
"I don't see what that has to do with the case," said
the Doctor. "It's a common enough complaint to
find a man shirking work."
"Not when the man who shirks is an enthusiastic
and willing worker. That's what made me wonder
in the first place, and I've now come to the conclusion
A CURIOUS BREAKFAST PARTY 151
that whenever the mulatto was ordered to work alone
— alone, mind you, without the help of the other sea-
men — why, he could accomplish anything, but when
he was working with anybody, he seemed, in spite of
himself, to become singularly useless."
"You call yourself dense. Captain, and you aflSrm
that I am not; but you seem to have a keener perception
of the abstruse and vague than I have, or can even
"You w411 be able to follow me in a moment," said
the captain humbly. "I fear it is the poor way in
which I am getting to the point; but I have to tell
things in my own way, not being given to talk much."
"Go on, then, in your own way," said the cleric.
"I then recollected that in my short acquaintance
with this mulatto I never remember to have seen him
in actual contact with any one, or any thing. And I
also recollect a strong tendency among the men to
avoid him — in fact, to keep out of any personal contact
"Natural enough," explained the cleric. "It is the
white man's antipathy toward a native. Perfectly nat-
"Perfectly," agreed Captain Collyer. "And I think
we may add the Englishman's antipathy toward the
uncanny and mysterious."
"I dare say," said Doctor Syn.
"I am sure of it," went on the captain. "Indeed, I
152 DOCTOR SYN
went so far as to ask the bo'sun, who has had most
deahngs with the fellow, whether he had ever touched
''Touched him? What do you mean?" asked the
parson, who began dimly to see what the other was
" Touched, touched him," repeated the captain with
emphasis. "The bo'sun told me 'No' and that he
wouldn't care about it, for he considered that 'a weird-
looking cove' — I'll use his precise way of expressing it
— that 'a weird-looking cove with a face like a dead 'un,
what never took food nor drink to his knowledge,
weren't the sort of cove that a respectable seaman
wanted to touch.'"
Jerry looked at the Doctor. He was as white as the
snowy tablecloth before him. Yet he still feigned not
to quite follow the captain's meaning.
"And now," asked the captain, "mad as it sounds,
do you see any connection between the two cases?
It's plain to any traveller or reader of travel books that
some of these foreign rascals, especially the priests,
possess strange, weird gifts that the white man's brain
runs short of, and I want to know if you see any con-
nection between the two cases."
Doctor Syn's hand was trembling, so much so that
the long clay pipe stem snapped between his finger and
thumb. Neither seemed to notice this, though the
lighted ashes had fallen out of the bowl upon the table-
A CmiOUS BREAKFAST PARTY 153
cloth and had burned innumerable holes in it before
"Do you see any connection, Doctor Syn?" asked
the captain, leaning right over the table and bringing
his face close to the cleric.
Doctor Syn did not answer.
The captain repeated the sentence once more — with
all the emphasis and force that he could put into his
"Any connection between the Cuban priest who was
able to commit deliberate murder after death by con-
trolling the enormous will power of his revenge upon
that one definite object? Do you see any connection,
I say, between that man and a man who was marooned
upon a coral reef in the Southern Pacific being able to
follow his murderer across the world in the beastly
hulk of his dead self .^ I don't understand it, nor do you,
perhaps, but I fancy that I see the semblance of a con-
nection, and what I want to know is, can you.^"
Then Doctor Syn did a surprising thing: He slowly
raised his face to the level of the captain's, then brought
his eyes to meet the captain's gaze, and then, drawing his
lips apart, laying his white teeth bare, he slowly drew
over his face, from the very depths of his soul, it seemed,
a smile — a fixed smile that steadily beamed all over him
for at least a quarter of a minute before he said :
"You most remarkable man! A King's captain, eh.^^
I vow you have mistaken your calling." And he de-
154 DOCTOR SYN
liberately and with the flat of his white hand patted the
captain's rough cheek, patted it as though the captain
were a child being petted or a puppy being teased.
"What the thunder do you mean?" roared the in-
furiated officer, "by calling ? Mistake my calling ? "
"Your profession," said Doctor Syn, calmly putting
on his cloak and hat.
"What would you have me then?" cried the seaman.
"I wouldn't have you any other than what you are,
sir," replied Doctor Syn, with his hand on the door
latch — "a thoroughly entertaining and vastly amusing
old seadog, mahogany as a dinner wagon, and loaded
with so many fancies as to be creaking near the break-
The captain was so taken aback with the extraordi-
nary manner of the Doctor that he could only look
and gasp. Doctor Syn, perfectly at ease, opened the
"I wonder?" he said in a low voice, almost tenderly,
The captain, with a great effort, managed to ejacu-
"Why your mother sent you to sea, for as an apothe-
cary — an apothecary — aye, yes, indeed, what a magnifi-
cent analyzing apothecary the world has missed in
you, sir." And to the captain's amazement and Jerry's
astonishment the vicar went out, closing the door behind
A CURIOUS BREAKFAST PARTY 155
The captain could do nothing but stare at the closed
door, while Jerry, perceiving nothing entertaining in
that, stared at the captain, who suddenly exploded out
in his great sea voice :
"An apothecary, an analyzing apothecary! What
in the devil's name does he mean by that?"
Jerry still looked at the captain. Certainly he had
never beheld any one more unlike an apothecary. By
the widest stretch of his imagination he could not pic-
ture the captain mixing drugs or making experiments.
"It's my opinion " he said, and then hesitated.
"Yes?" thundered the captain, with an eagerness
that seemed to welcome any opinion.
" — well, it's my opinion, sir, that Doctor Syn is off his
head — mad, sir."
"And it's my opinion, potboy," said the captain, as
if he valued his own opinion as highly as Jerry Jerk's,
"it's my opinion that he's nothing of the kind. He's
feigning madness. He had to do something, you see,
to get out of the room, so he called me something that
he knew would take my breath away for the moment,
knowing me to be dense, and he succeeded, for if any
man was unqualified to be an apothecary, I'm the fel-
low. An analyzing apothecary!"
Then the captain sat down in the armchair and
laughed till the tears rolled down his cheeks, and Jerry
was obliged to join in, though he didn't know what he
was laughing at. At length he stopped and became
156 DOCTOR SYN
most suddenly grave. Getting up, he placed his hands
on Jerry's shoulders.
"Look here, potboy," he said, "you and I have com-
mon secrets that I know. What the devil you were
doing out on the Marsh the night before last I don't
know, but that you saw the schoolmaster kill Pepper I
" You know ? " cried Jerk, utterly astonished. "Then
Doctor Syn must have told you, for I never breathed
"I know all about it, my boy, because I was hiding
in the same dyke as you. Now see here, from what
I've seen of you, I imagine you can be relied upon.
We'll pluck a leaf out of that parson's book. We'll
find out his mystery. We'll find out the whole mystery
of this damned Marsh, and as to being apothecaries,
why, damme, so we will. We'll take him at his word."
"And be apothecaries, sir.^" asked Jerry, more puz-
zled now than ever.
"Yes," cried the captain, slapping his great hands
up and down upon Jerry's shoulders. "Apothecaries
make experiments, don't they.^"
"I dare say they do, sir," replied Jerk.
"Well, so will we, my lad," went on the captain, as
happy as a sand boy. "We'll set a trap for all this
mystery to walk into. We'll set a big trap, my lad —
big enough to hold all the murderers and mulattoes on
the Marsh, the demon riders as well, and certainly not
A CURIOUS BREAKFAST PARTY 157
forgetting the coffins in Mipps's shop nor the bottles of
Alsace Lorraine beneath this floor. We'll catch the lot,
my boy, and analyze 'em. Yes, damn 'em! we'll ana-
lyze 'em, inside and outside, by night and by day.
And when we've analyzed 'em thoroughly, why, we'll
give 'em to Jack Ketch — to old Jack Ketch, who'll
hang 'em up to dry. Not a word, my boy, to any one;
not a word. Here's a guinea bit to hold your tongue;
and look to hear from me before the day's out, for I
shall want your help to-morrow night."
And the captain was gone. Literally rushed out of
the door he had, leaving Jerk alone in a whirl.
"Well," he said to himself, "if a man ever deserved a
third breakfast, I'm the one, and here goes; for both of
these fellows is stark, staring mad, though it's wonder-
ful the way they all seems to take to me."
And thrusting the precious guinea bit into his pocket,
Jerk again vigorously attacked the victuals.
A YOUNG RECRUIT
TALK about an 'ealthy child, and there he is,"
said Mrs. Waggetts, entering the sanded par-
lour with Sexton Mipps. **i.\nd eat; nothing
like eating to increase your fat, is there. Mister Mipps?
But, there, I suppose you never had no fat on you to
speak of, 'cos if ever a man was one of Pharaoh's lean
kine, you was."
"It's hard work wot's kept me thin, Missus Wag-
getts," replied the sinister sexton; "hard work and
scheming; and a little of both would do our young Jerry
here no harm."
"As to work," replied Jerry, gulping down more
food, "there ain't been no complaints against me, I
believes, Missus Waggetts.^"
"Certainly not, Jerry, my boy," replied that lady
"That's good," said Jerk, and then turning to the
sexton he added: "And as to scheming, Mister Sexton,
how do you know I don't scheme .^^ Some folks are so
took up with their own schemes that p'raps they don't
get time to notice wot others are a-doin'. I has lots of
A YOUNG RECRUIT 159
schemes, I has. I thinks about 'em by day, I does, and
dreams of 'em at night."
"And they gives you a rare knack of puttin' away
Missus Waggetts' victuals, I'm a-noticin'," dryly re-
marked the sexton.
"Lor', I'm sure he's heartily welcome to anything
I've got," returned the landlady. "It fair cheers me
up to see him eat well, and it'll be a fine man he'll be
making in a year or so."
"Aye, that I will," cried young Jerk; "and when I'm
a hangman I ain't a-goin' to forget my old friend. I'll
come along from the town every Sunday, I will, and
we'll go and hear Parson Syn preach just the same as
we does now, and Mister Mipps will show us into the
pew, and everybody will turn round and stare at us and
say: *Why, there goes Hangman Jerk!' Then we'll
come back and have a bite of supper together, that is
providing I don't have to sup with the squire at the
"That 'ud be likely," interrupted Mipps.
"And, after we've had supper, I'll tell you stories
about horrible sights I've seen in the week, and terrible
things I've done, and it'll go hard with Sexton Mipps to
keep even with me with weird yarnin', I tells you."
"Ha! ha!" chuckled Mipps. "Strike me dead and
knock me up slipshod in a buckrum coffin, if this man
Jerry Jerk don't please me. Look at him. Missus
Waggetts. Will you please do me the favour of lookin'
160 DOCTOR SYN
at him hard, though don't let it put you off your feed,
Jerry. Why, at your age I had just such notions as
you've got, but then I never had your advantages.
Why, at thirteen years of age I was as growed up in
my fancies as this Jerk. Sweetmeats to devil, eh,
Jerry .'^ for it's some who grows above such garbage
from their first rocking in the cradle. This Jerry Jerk
is a man; why, bless you, he's more a man than lots of
'em what thinks they be. Aye, more a man than some
of 'em wot's a-doin' man's work."
"That's so," said Mrs. Waggetts, enthusiastically
backing the sexton up. "And don't you forget that
he owns a bit of land on the Marsh, and so he's a Marsh-
"I doesn't forget it," said Mipps, "and I've been
tellin' certain folk wot had, how things were goin* with
Hangman Jerk, and I've made 'em see that although
only a child in regard to age, he ain't no child in his
deeds, and so they agreed with me, Missus Waggetts,
that it 'ud be unjust not to let him have full Marsh-
man's privileges; and I'll go bail that Jerk won't dis-
grace me by not livin' up to them privileges."
"P'raps I won't, IVIister Sexton, when I knows what
them privileges are."
"You listen and I'll tell you," answered the sexton.
"And listen well, Jerry," added Mrs. Waggetts, "for
what Mister !Mipps is a-goin' to say will like as not be
the makin' of you."
A YOUNG RECRUIT 161
"I will listen most certainly," replied Jerk, "so soon
as Mister Mipps gets on with it. I'm all agog to listen,
but there's no use in listenin' afore he begins, is there
"Jerry," said the sexton, "you're just one after my
own heart. You ought to have lived in my days, when
I was a lad. Gone to sea and got amongst the inter-
estin' gentlemen like I did. Aye, they was interestin'.
And reckless they was, too. They was rough — none
rougher; but I don't grudge 'em all the kicks they give
me. Why, it made a man o' me, young Jerk. I tell
you. Master Jerry, that bad as them sea adventurers
was, and bad they was — my eye — yes, buccaneers,
pirates, and all the rest of it — but bad as they was they
did some good, for they made a man o' me, Jerry. I
should never have been the sort o' man I is now if them
ruffians hadn't kindly knocked the nonsense out o'
"Shouldn't you, though.^" said Jerry.
"Never, never!" said the sexton with conviction.
"But mind you," he went on, "you has advantages
wot I never had. I had to learn all the tricks o' my
trade, and I had to buy my experience. There was no
kind friend to teach me my tricks o' trade, no benevo-
lent old cove wot 'ud pay for my experience. No, I had
to buy and learn for myself, but, my stars and garters !
afore they'd done with me I had 'em all scared o' me.
Even England hisself didn't a-relish my tantrums; and
162 DOCTOR SYN
when I was in a regular blinder, why, I solemnly be-
lieves he was scared froze o' me. There was only one
man my superior in all the time I sailed them golden
seas, and that man was Clegg hisself. I served on his
ship, you know. Jerk. I was carpenter, master car-
penter, mind you, to Clegg hisself — to no less a man
than Clegg. And on Clegg's own ship it were, too.
She was called the Imogene. I never knew why she
was called so. It sounds a high fiddaddley sort o'
name for a pirate ship, but then Clegg was a regular
gentleman in his tastes. Why, I remember him sittin'
so peaceful on the roundhouse roof one day a-readin'
of Virgil — and not in the vulgar tongue, neither. He
was a-readin' it in the foreign language wot it was first
wrote in, so he told me. And you couldn't somehow
get hold o' the fact that that benign-lookin' cove wot
was sittin' there so peaceful a-readin' learned books
had maybe half an hour before strung up a mutineer
to the yardarms or made some wealthy fat merchant
walk the dirty plank. No, he was a rummun, and no
mistake, was that damned old pirate Clegg. But I'd
pull my forelock, supposing I had one, all day long to
old Clegg, even were I the Archbishop of Canterbury
and he only an out-at-heel seadog. Now with Eng-
land it was different, as I told you, though I'll own he
could beat the devil hisself for blasphemy when he was
put out. But I wasn't afraid o' him; he was one you
could size up like. But Clegg — oh, he was different.
A YOUNG RECRUIT 163
Show me the man wot could size up Clegg, and I'd make
him Leveller of Romney Marsh, aye, King of England,
supposin' I had the power. There was only one man
wot I ever seed wot made Clegg turn a hair, and that
was a rascally Cuban priest, but then he had devil
powers, he had. Ugh!" And the sexton relapsed into
silence. His listeners watched him, and, watching,
they saw him shiver. What old scene of horror was
flashing before that curious little man's mind's eye.'^
Ah, who could tell? No living body, for the crew of the
Imogene had all died violent deaths one after another
in different lands, and since Clegg was hanged at Rye,
why, Mipps was the only veteran left of that historical
ship of crime, the Imogene.
"Pray get on with the business in hand, Mister
IVIipps," said Mrs. Waggetts, "for though I declare I
could a-listen to you a-philosphizin' and a-moralizin'
all day long, young Jerk is all agog. Ain't you, Jerry .'^ "
"That's so," replied young Jerk. "Please get on,
"I will," said Mr. Mipps. "You may wonder now,
Jerry Jerk, how it has been possible for a swaggerin'
adventurer like I be, or rather was one time, when I was
a handsome, fine standin* young fellow aboard the
Imogene — I say you may fall to wonderin' how I come
to be a sexton and to live the dull, dreary life of a hum-
drum villager. Well, I'll tell you now straight out,
man to man, and when I've told you, why, you'll under-
164 DOCTOR SYN
stand all the mystery wot I'm a-gettin' at." The sexton
smote his hand upon the table so that all the break-
fast dishes jumped into different positions on the table,
and the two words he said as his fist crashed down were
these: "I couldn't!"
"Couldn't what?" asked Jerk, whose anxiety for the
breakfast dishes' safety had driven the context of the
sexton's speech from his mind.
*' Couldn't live a humdrum life after the high jinks
I had at sea."
"But you did, Mister Sexton, and, what's more,
you're a-doin' it now," replied young Jerk with some
show of sarcasm.
"And very prettily you can act, can't you, Hangman
Jerk.f^" said Mr. Mipps, winking. "I declare you're a
past-master in the way of pretendin'. Well, pretendin'
all's very well, but it's often plain-spoken truth wot
serves as a safer weapon for roguish fellows, and it's
plain-spoken truth I'm a-goin' to use to you, believin'
in my heart that if ever there was a roguish fellow
livin', and one after my old heart, why, Hangman Jerk is
"Please get on, JVIister Sexton," said Jerry, feeling
"Yes, get on, get on," repeated Mrs. Waggetts, "for
I'm a-longin' to hear how he takes it."
"Can you doubt .'^ I don't," replied Mipps. "I bet my
head he'll take it as a man, won't you, Jerry Jerk, eh?"
A YOUNG RECRUIT 165
"I'll tell you when I knows wot it is," replied the
"Why, what a talky old party I've become. Time
was when I never uttered a word — but do — ah, I was
one to do. And much and quick I did, too."
"We knows that very well, thank you. Mister Sex-
ton," said Jerry. "That is, we knows it if we knows
your word can be relied upon."
"You may lay to that," said Mipps, "and you may
lay that in our future dealings together you can depend
on me a-standin' by you as long as you lay the straight
course with me."
"I'll take your word for that," responded Jerk.
"Now p'raps you will get on.^^"
"Well," said the sexton, "I must begin with the
Marsh — the Romney Marsh. No one knows better
than you do that she's a queer sort of a corner, is Rom-
ney Marsh. I've seen you a-prowlin' and a-nosin'
about on her. You scented excitement, you did, on the
Marsh. You smelt out a mystery, and like a lad of
adventurous spirit you wanted to find out the meanin'
of it all. Very natural. I should have done the same
when I was a lad. W^ell, now the whole business is
this: the Marsh don't approve of folks a-nosin' and
a-prowlin' after her secrets, see?" And the sexton's
face grew suddenly fierce: all those lines of quizzical
humour vanished from around that peculiar mouth
and left a face of diabolical cruelty, of cunning, and of
166 DOCTOR SYN
deceit. But eTerk was not easily unnerved or put out
of countenance. There was something about Mipps
that put him on his mettle and stimulated him. He
liked Mipps, but he liked to keep even with him, for his
own self-respect, which was very great, for in some
things Jerry Jerk was most inordinately proud.
"Oh, the Marsh don't approve, eh.^^ And who or
what might be the power on the Marsh to tell you so?"
"The great ruler o' the Marsh — the man with no
name who successfully runs his schemes and makes his
"That'll be the squire, then," said Jerry promptly,
"for he's the Leveller of Marsh Scotts, ain't he.^^ He
makes the laws for the Marshmen, don't he.^^"
"He does that certainly," agreed the sexton. "But
whether or no he's the power what brings luck to the
Marshmen — Marshmen, mind you, worthy of the name
— neither you nor me nor nobody can tell. Sufficient
for us that the Marsh is ruled by a power, a mysterious
power, wot brings gold and to spare to the Marshmen's
"Ah, then," said Jerry, with his eyes blazing, "then
I was right. There are smugglers on the Marsh."
"There are," said the sexton; "and it's wealthy men
they be, though you'd never guess at it, and darin',
adventurous cusses they be, and rollickin' good times
they gets, and no danger to speak of, 'cos the whole
blessed concern is run by a master brain wot never
A YOUNG RECRUIT 167
seems to make mistakes, and it was this same master
brain wot agreed that you should share the privileges
o' the Marsh, and I was ordered to recruit you."
**0h! and what'll be required o' me?" asked Jerk,
"supposin' I thinks about it."
"You'll be given a horse, and you'll ride with the
Marsh witches, learn their trade, and be apprenticed
to their callin'."
"And how do you know I won't blab and get you and
your fellows the rope.^^" asked Jerry bravely.
"Because we've sized you up, w^e 'as, and we don't
suspect you of treachery. If we did, it wouldn't much
matter to us, though I should be right sorry to have
been disappointed in you, for I declare I don't know
when I took to a young man like I 'as to you. You're
my fancy, you are, Jerry. Just like I was at your age.
Mad for adventure and for the life of real men."
"Yes, but just supposin' that I did disappoint you.
Mister Sexton.? It's well to hear all sides, you know."
"Aye, it's well and wise, too, and I'll tell you. If it
was to your advantage to betray us — to that captain
p'raps — w^ell, I daresay you'd do it now, wouldn't you.^^ "
"I don't know," said Jerk; "all depends. P'raps I
might, though. You never knows, does you.^^ "
"No, you never knows. Quite right. But you'd
know one thing: that go where you would, or hide where
you liked, we'd get 3^ou in time, and when we did get
you it 'ud be short shrift for you — you may lay to that."
168 DOCTOR SYN
"I daresay," said Jerry, "unless, of course, I got you
** You'd have a good number to get, my lad," laughed
the sexton. "But it's no use a-harguin' like this.
You won't betray us when it don't serve your turn to
do so, and it won't do that, 'cos we has very fine pros-
pects open for you, and advantages. Why, we can
set you in the way of rollin' in a coach before we've
done with you, and who knows, years hence, when
you're older than you be now, who knows but what you
might not succeed to the headship. If anything was
to happen to the great chief wot's to prevent you from
takin' his place, eh.'* You're smart, ain't you.? There's
no gainsay in' that, now, is there. Missus Waggetts.?"
"No, indeed," replied that lady.
"Then take my tip, the straight tip of an old gentle-
man o' fortune, and you join us."
"What'll I have to do and what is it I'm a-joinin',
though?" asked the boy.
"The great scheme of wool-runnin'," said Mr. Mipps.
"Ah," sighed Jerry, "I thought as much. And what
am I to do, always supposin' that I'm willin' to join.'^"
"We've a vacancy in the horsemen — a man short,
you see, though we've got the horse. It's Mr. Rash's
horse, but we've turned out the schoolmaster and kept
his horse. He weren't one of us, you see, so we found
that we didn't want him no more."
" You've killed him? " cried the hangman, starting up.
A YOUNG RECRUIT 169
"I didn't say that," retorted the sexton. "I merely
remarked that we didn't want him no more. And now
just give me your attention. I've every reason to be-
lieve, and so has the great chief that I work for, that
you are gettin' very thick with that swab of a King's
captain. Well, now, don't go suddenly a-givin' him
the cold shoulder, do you see? You can't drop a friend
all at once like a hot potato without excitin' the gossip
and suspicion of folk; so remember what I says and
keep civil to him. But it's my opinion that after to-
night you'll know which side you be on, for once get
the thrill of the demon ride and you'll not want to get
dismissed. Besides, gettin' dismissed by our chief
ain't exactly what you might term a pleasant form of
"And what do I do. Mister Sexton.?"
"You'll get told all in good time."
"But what do the demon riders do.^^ " persisted the boy.
"Frighten folk from the Marsh when the ponies are
trottin' under the wool packs."
"And where do the wool packs come from?"
"From nearly every farm on the Marsh."
"And they put it all in packs and send 'em down to
" That's the ticket, my lad. Pack 'em all up on ponies
and bring back coffins full of spirit from France."
"Coffins full of spirit from France?" repeated the
170 DOCTOR SYN
"Yes, that's why I'm a coffin-maker. What would
you expect to see inside a nailed-up coffin, eh? "
'* Why, a dead 'un," said the boy.
"Exactly; and as folk ain't particular fond of amusin'
themselves with a sight of dead 'uns they lets my cof-
fins alone, do you see, and the spirit is treated with
every respect and is allowed to go on its way very snug
and all knocked up most particular solid."
*' And the head of it all's the squire, is it?"
"I never said so," replied the sexton quickly; "but
the less you think and say on that subject the better,
for those who know the identity of the great chief would
sooner have their eyes put out than betray him; so
don't you hamper your young career with thinkin' about
it. All you've got to do is to obey."
"And what do I get out of it? "
" Gold and the time of your life."
"x\nd when do I start? "
"To-night?" faltered Jerk much relieved, for he had
thought of his promise to help the captain, and was
greatly thankful that the dates had not clashed.
"At half -past twelve at Old Tree Cottage; but don't
go to the coffin-shop side. Tap at the back kitchen
"And half-past twelve, you say?"
"That's the time," answered Mipps, holding out his
hands and seizing Jerk's in both his. "And I can tell
A YOUNG RECRUIT 171
at a glance that your a-goin' to be a credit to the under-
And a minute afterward he was gone and Jerk was
sent by Mrs. Waggetts into the bar to poHsh up the
THE COFFIN-MAKER HAS A VISITOR
j4 BOUT noon of the same day Captain Collyer,
/% in walking through the village, found himself
X JL passing Old Tree Cottage, the low-lying resi-
dence of Sexton Mipps, with its coffin shop facing the
street and its small farmhouse behind. Attracted
by a great noise of hammering, the captain stepped up
to the window and glanced in. Rows of coffins lined
the walls and coffin planks were everywhere propped up
against shelves containing everything imaginable. In
the centre of the shop stood two black trestle-stools, and
upon these funeral relics reposed a large coffin with no
lid. Inside this gloomy thing sat Mr. Mipps. He was
sitting straight up and hammering lustily upon the
coffin sides, singing away with much spirit to the
O hammer, hammer, hammer.
And damn her, damn her, damn her,
For I don't fear my wife now she's dead.
The captain, amused at the crude words, pushed
open the casement and leaned into the room. Whether
COFFIN-MAKER HAS A VISITOR 173
the sexton saw him or not the captain did not know, but
the song changed immediately to a song of the sea:
There*s no swab Hke the captain,
There's no swab Hke the captain.
Of all the swabs I've ever seen
With a diddle diddle diddle diddle diddle diddle dee
No swab like the captain.
"A very appropriate song, Master Sexton," laughed
Mipps turned round and surveyed the intruder.
"Why, knock me up solid if it ain't the good captain!
The gold of the high noon to you, sir, though there
ain't much gold in the sky to-day. I take it as a very
friendly piece of impertinence that you should come and
look me up so unexpected. Had I knowed of your
arrival I'd have had these grizzly relics stowed away,
for some folk has a distinct dislike to lookin' at these
last dwellin' houses."
"You are used to 'em, I suppose, by now.^" said the
"Oh, love you, yes, I don't mind 'em. Some under-
takers has fearful superstitions about coffins. Some
won't get in 'em to measure 'em. Lord! I always does.
I lies down inside 'em and pops the lid on the top to see
if it's airtight."
"Awkward if the lid was to stick."
"You may well say that, 'cos once it did. But it
174 DOCTOR SYN
weren't so much awkward as peaceful, for after I'd
pushed and struggled for a power o' time, I just resigned
myself to my fate, feelin' thankful that at any rate I
had had the privilege of bein' my own undertaker. I
shall never forget my feelin's when my last bit of breath
came up and went out. It was just the sort o' feelin'
you gets when you drowns, only more so. 'Cos when
you drowns you sees all the bad actions of your life a-
troopin' before you, but gettin' buried alive is different,
'cos you sees all the good actions wot you've done.
Mind you, things I'd clean forgot. Little acts of kind-
ness wot I thought could never have been recorded any-
where. Why, they all walked out, and I seemed to be
greatly comforted, 'cos, you see, I thought as how I was
quite in the runnin' for heaven. In fact I was so pleased
with my past self that I fairly kicked with delight, and
that was the means of bringin' me back to earth, 'cos
over went these trestles, and the jar I got knocked the
stuck lid off. No, I've been near gone these many times,
but never so near gone as that, for, as you see, I was
finished with the undertaker having undertook myself,
and I only had to be passed through the parson's hands
and get knocked over the sconce with the sexton's
shovel, as Shakespeare says in the play, to be a real
'gonner,' stiff and proper."
"A horrible experience. Master Sexton," returned the
"It was in a sense. But I could tell you horribler.
COFFIN-MAKER HAS A VISITOR 175
I takes a pride in my business, same as you might in
yours. That's why I went round the world."
"Oh, you've been round the world, have you?" said
^*Not once nor twice, but many times, and do you
"Perhaps the life of the get-rich-quick bucca-
neers appealed to you?" remarked Captain Collyer
"There you go — suspicious. Can't you adapt your-
self for five minutes? Can't you make an effort w^hen
you're a-gossipin' with honest folk to forget that there
is dishonest ones? I never did see the like. Here we
be chattin' quite friendly, and forgettin' our little dif-
ferences, when you starts accusin' me of bein' a Cap-
tain Clegg or an England. Do I look like a bold pirate
now\'^ Lookin' at me straight sittin' up in this 'ere
coffin, could you say that I looked like a swaggerin'
gentleman o' fortune. No, you couldn't. Very well,
then, why go and make unpleasant insinuations against
a respectable sexton o' the realm? Mind you, I don't
say as howl didn't come across some of that breed durin'
my travels, and I don't say as how circumstance, that
fickle woman, didn't at times make me work for 'em.
But not for long. I held no sort o' likes with the
likes o' them, and though some of 'em had most engagin*
ways, it was easy to see that they was all of 'em un-
adulterated sinners. And swear? God bless your eyes,
176 DOCTOR SYN
Captain, it made you blush like a damned woman to
"And if it was not for gold and adventure that you
went, may I ask what tempted you abroad?"
"Certainly, Captain. It was the love of my work.
The zeal to have a look at other sextons, vergers, and
undertakers and see what they were a-doin' with the
business. But Lord love you, Captain, I soon found
as how funerals was done on different plans abroad.
Why, I could tell you some things I seed with regard
to burials abroad what 'ud make your flesh creep — aye,
and now, too, though the sun is high in the heaven."
"Well, IVe an hour to spare. Master Sexton. What
do you say to coming along to the Ship and enjoying a
drink and a friendly pipe?"
"I thinks I can do one better than that, thankin'
you kindly," said the sexton, vaulting with marvellous
dexterity out of the lofty coflSn to the floor, "for IVe
baccy, pipes, and good brandy all to hand, and if you'd
care to spend an hour with Sexton Mipps and listen to
his babbles, why, light your ^strike me dead' and gulp
your spirits and settle your hulk in that there coffin, what
hasn't got no passenger inside — so don't be frightened
— and we'll shut the window, for it's a-blowin' the fire
out; and if you ain't cozy, well, it's not the fault of the
sexton, is it now?" And then Mr. Mipps, after busily
providing his guest with the requisites for smoke and
drink, and after splitting up a coffin plank to renew the
COFFIN-MAKER HAS A VISITOR 177
fire, sprang back into the coffin, sitting snug with a glass
of brandy and his clay pipe. The captain also was
ensconced on a coffin in the corner, and to the crackle
of the split coffin plank upon the fire the sexton began to
THE SEXTON SPEAKS
FUNERALS may be divided into three classes,
for there be solemn funerals, there be grizzly
funerals, and there be funny 'uns. The fun-
niest funeral I ever did see was in China. Do you
know, Captain, they very seldom buries out there?
They leaves the blasted coffins above ground. The
whole of the countryside is a-littered with 'em. For
untidy burials China waves the flag, and they has other
very funny customs about funerals out there, too. When
a fellow goes and dies out there it's a devil of a busi-
ness he has to go through before he gets fixed up final.
Every family out there 'as their own very particular
priest, you understand, and this very particular priest
is always a very sly sort o' dog. The dead 'un is put
into the coffin, and then the family pays their sly dog a
considerable sum o' money in exchange for very hard
prayers wot the sly dog makes for 'em to his gods. He
goes away and prays for weeks on end, askin' his gods
just where exactly the family ought to bury their dead
'un to enable him to get into heaven by the most con-
venient route. And as the sly dog gets paid all the
THE SEXTON SPEAKS 179
time he's a-prayin', you can bet your wig that he pre-
tends to string them prayers out to some length. And
I can tell you those Chinese parsons were up to one or
two smart wrinkles. I'll tell you about a certain Ling
Fu Quong. Well, if I hadn't rung the curtain down, as
the stage players say, upon that gent's httle comedy,
I believes he'd be drawin' in a salary now for a fellow
what died some forty years ago. You see it happened
like this: I had had business deals on with a smug-
faced Chinese merchant wot did business at Shanghai.
Well, when I was about to sail for the old country, old
smug face came to say how sorry he was I was a-goin'
to leave, and hoped he'd have the pleasure of doin'
business with me again when I come back. Well, we
started talkin' and I told him that I should very much
like to see a Chinese funeral, and old smug face said
that he would gladly oblige me, because a very partic-
ular old uncle of his had died and his funeral was shortly
to take place. Well, the upshot of it all was that I was
invited to go up the river on smug face's boat to Soo-
chow, where he lived and where his uncle had died, a
city some sixty miles away or thereabouts. So there
I accordingly went. Have you ever been on one o'
them large sampans. Captain.'^ No.'^ Well, it's a long
sort o' boat, fitted up very snug indeed, with flowers all
trailin' over the side, and all fixed up to look like an
old homestead sailin' on the river. After a very pleas-
ant trip — and. Lord love you, I did make that old
180 DOCTOR SYN
Chinaman laugh telHn' him things, for I could speak
their lingo very well, you understand — well, after a
very pleasant trip we gets to Soochow, and a rummy old
place it was. It stood right on top of the river, with
its old walls runnin' straight down into the muddy
water. It was a strong town and important, a town of
fighters and wealthy merchantmen. Well, they was
all very pleased to see me and received me very proper.
Most of 'em was a-lookin' over the wall a-wavin' flags
at me, and them as 'adn't got none w^ere a-wavin' their
pigtails. I might 'ave been the great Cham for all the
fuss they made o' me. O' course, mind you, I had my
enemies. There was a sort o' lord mayor o' the place
wot I could see didn't quite approve of me bein' the
nine days' wonder, but he was one of them self-centred
sort o' coves wot don't like any one to have a fling but
hisself. But I didn't mind him, for, although I was
only a little fellow, I had an eye like a vulture, a nose
like a swordfish, and when I was put out, a way of
lashin' myself about like a tiger's tail wot used to scare
them natives. O' course, mind you, it wasn't pleasant
when you come to think of it, 'cos there I was the only
Englishman amongst them millions of yellow jacks.
But an Englishman's an Englishman all the world over,
ain't he. Captain.^ and he wants a bit of squashin', and
so that lord mayor discovered, 'cos one day I walked
right up to him in the street and I clacked my teeth at
him so very loud that he ran home and never annoyed
THE SEXTON SPEAKS 181
me no more. But I was a-goin' to tell you about that
funeral. When we got to the front door of old smug
face's house we discovered his uncle's coffin reposin'
upon the doorstep very peaceful but in a most awkward
sort of position, 'cos you had to crawl over the blarsted
thing to get in or out o' the door."
"* Lord love you, my most excellent Mipps,' cried old
smug face when he saw it, 'why, this'll never do, now will
it, for my late lamented uncle' — I forget the uncle's
name but it was Ling something — *is fairly blocking
up the entrance, ain't it?'
"*Ling Fu Quong,' I replied, 'you've hit it, for if we
'as to do steeplechase over that there thing every time
we wants to get out o' doors for a breather, well, we'll
fair tire ourselves out.' And so old smug face agreed,
and he accordingly sent for the family sly dog, by which
I mean, o' course, the family parson. Well, old sly
dog arrived, and of all the fat, self-satisfied looking
bouncers I ever seed, he took the cake. It was easy
to see as how he made a good thing out of his job. Well,
my old friend smug face begins telling him how awk-
ward it was havin' a coffin right across the front door,
and old sly dog said as how he were very sorry, but it
were just in that place wot the gods had told him to put
"* Don't you think that if we were to offer sacred
crackers to the gods that they might find as how they've
been mistook.^ ' suggested smug face.
182 DOCTOR SYN
"'I'll have a try, oh, bereaved one,' answered sly
dog, a-rubbin' his fat hands with invisible soap, a habit
he was very fond of practisin' and a habit wot always
sets my teeth on edge, soap bein' to my mind such an
unnecessary sort o' institootion.
"So my old friend unlocks his treasure chest and
forks out a regular king's ransom, which he gives to the
sly priest to buy crackers with just to persuade the gods
to change their minds. And I tells you that if old sly
dog had really spent all that money in crackers, why,
Gunpowder Plot wouldn't have been in it. Anyhow,
the priest left us with the money, and we spent the
next few days a-climbin' over that inconvenience when-
ever we ventured to go out or in doors. You must
understand also that coffins out in China ain't the
neat sort of contrivance like we've got here. Oh, Lord
love you, no, for of all the great cumbersome family
coaches I ever seed in the coffin line, them Chinese
ones took the cake.
"Well, in a few days back comes the sly dog lookin'
more prosperous than ever. It was very plain to me
that he'd been havin' a good time with that money,
and if he had spent five minutes in prayers to his gods
I should be very much surprised. Well, he tells my
old friend the merchant as how we had to turn out of
the house for that night, because the gods had promised
to visit him that night if he stayed all alone along of the
coffin, and they would then say whether it was possible
THE SEXTON SPEAKS 183
for the coffin to be moved. So we had to turn out,
much to my annoyance, and go to another house wot
was owned by a friend of my smug-faced friend. Well,
I wasn't particular about where we stopped, though I
could see smug face didn't like turning out his house,
but I felt annoyed to see how very easily he knuckled
under to whatever the priest said. So we went away,
as I say, for that night. Now the nights come up cold
in China, and we both had got two very snivelly noses
wot had been brought on by the draughts tlu-ough not
being able to shut that front door. Next morning sly
dog came round to say that the gods would visit the
house every night and see just where they could order
the coffin to be moved to, and in the meantime sly
dog was to spend his days and nights in the house, and
a very comfortable time he had of it, you may be sure,
for my friend the merchant had got a house well stored
with very good things.
"At the end of a week sly dog comes round to say
that the gods had decided to move the coffin, and that
he had seen their orders carried out. So after giving
him more money, much to my indignation, for I couldn't
bear to see my friend imposed upon, we left him and
set off for the house. And where do you think that
dirty fat priest had put that coffin .^^ "
"Where?" queried the captain.
"Why, in the bed where I was supposed to sleep.
Now this really did rouse the devil in me, and I deter-
184 DOCTOR SYN
mined to get even with that priest. But I had to think
things over very carefully. You see if I objected to
sleepin' in the same bed as the coffin, my friend the
smug-faced merchant, who had really been kindness
itself to me, might think I thought myself superior to
sleepin' with his uncle, and that I knew would offend
him, 'cos the Chinese seem to bear a most ridiculous
respect towards their dead relations. So I decided
that, come what might, I would certainly sleep there,
and at the same time I hit upon a scheme for the im-
doin' of that priest.
"Next morning I woke up after a very pleasant sleep
alongside that coffin, and felt much refreshed, though
o' course I wasn't goin' to let 'em know that. When
my friend asked me how I had slept I told him very
badly, 'cos all through the night the old uncle in the
coffin kept awakin' up and askin' if I would go and fetch
the priest. So smug face sends round at once to sly
dog for me to tell him all about it.
"'Did the late lamented uncle of this bereaved man
really converse with thee in the night, O Englishman.'*'
asked the priest, tryin' to look very knowin'. I was
longin' to reply by givin' him one in his fat mouth, but
I pulled myself together and answered very respectfully :
"*0f a truth did the late lamented uncle of this
bereaved one' — a-jerkin' my thumb towards smug face
— * converse with my contemptible self in the small
hours of the dawn previous to the inestimable crowing
THE SEXTON SPEAKS 185
of the invaluable cock upon the temple roof. Of a truth
did he converse with me, indeed, and say unto me' — I
could speak their lingo very well in those days, I could
— ' "Send for the wise and learned priest of the family
and tell him that I have much to say unto him on mat-
ters of most heavenly importance, and command him
to sleep upon the very spot where thou art now sleep-
ing, O foreigner of the white face. Let him sleep there
to-morrow night alone. Let none other be in the house,
for it is to the priest alone that I can confide my trou-
bles. Urge also my dutiful nephew to pay large sums
of money to the priest so that he may not fail to come
to me in my sore and troubled hour." '
"Well, o' course they all thought it very wonderful,
and, provided with more money by my friend, the priest
went off to sleep the night with the cofiin. Well, I had
pretended to be tired that night and had retired to my
sleepin'-room early, so they thought, for we werespendin'
that night ^s^ith the friends of my friend. But no sooner
had I fastened the entrance to my room than I had got
out of the window^ which looked out upon the city
wall, and climbin' along the parapet I safely reached
the ground and set off at a good run to the empty house,
gettin' there well before the priest. Now" I had told
the merchant to be sure and see the priest safe at the
house himself, for I feared that fright might keep the
rascal away. The merchant promised to do this, for
I believe that by this time he was losin' confidence in
186 DOCTOR SYN
the family confessor. As soon as I got into my old
bedroom I opened the coffin, lifted out the corpse,
strippin' him of his funeral clothes, which I donned.
Then I hid the corpse in a dark corner of the room behind
a screen and got into the great coffin. Now the lids
are not screwed down in China, but merely allowed to
rest upon the coffin, so I left a very little chink so that
I should not have any fear of suffocation. Presently
I hears the priest arrive, and my friend bids him good-
night and leaves him. Well, the fellow possessed more
courage than I had credited him with, 'cos he comes
promptly into the room, counts out his fresh money on
the top of the coffin itself, and then curls himself up
alongside it upon the mattress. Just as soon as I heard
him beginnin' to breathe heavy I pushed open the coffin
lid, callin' upon him by name in most sepulchral tones.
He woke up, o' course, and sits up on his side of the
bed and looked at the coffin; and then he beheld me
a-sittin' up inside the coffin a-lookin' at him, only, o'
course, he didn't think it was me, but the dead uncle.
Well, he was so frightened that I just had an easy walk
over him. I jumped at him, I kicked him, I made him
swear that he would return every penny of his false-
gotten gains to the merchant, and that if the merchant
refused he was to give it to the white stranger that
sojourned there, and finally, after thrashing the stuffin'
out of him, I popped him bodily into the coffin, jammed
the corpse from behind the screen in on top of him, and
THE SEXTON SPEAKS 187
over 'em both I closed the Hd. Then seein' as how he
was unconscious through the drubbin' he had had, and
the a^-ful fright, I left him and went home to bed at
the house of the friends of my friend, gettin' in as I
had got out — through the window. Well, next morn-
ing the sly dog turned up and said that the gods had
visited him in the night and that the coffin was to be
buried twelve feet deep in the merchant's field, and that
he was so overjoyed at having conversed so very pleas-
antly w^ith the gods that he must insist on returning
the gold to the merchant. This the good merchant,
of course, refused to accept, so the priest was obhged,
according as he had been commanded, to hand it to the
white stranger wot sojourned with the merchant and
who w^as your humble servant. Captain. That day I
went back to Shanghai loaded with presents, not only
from my friend, but from the friends of my friend, at
whose house we had sojourned, and with every gold
piece out of that sly dog's pocket, for although a sly
dog he certainly was, he w^as also a cowardly dog, too,
and didn't dare to go against the will of that terrible
late lamented uncle of the bereaved one wot was now,
and still is, I expect, lying twelve foot down in the field
of my inestimable smug-faced merchant who was my
friend. And that's the story of the funniest funeral
I was ever at, and there ain't many wot ever seed a
funnier one, I should say."
"I should think not," said the captain, and filling
188 DOCTOR SYN
their glasses once more they pledged each other, and
the captain left the sexton to his hammering, and walked
out over the Marsh. He had taken good stock of that
coffin shop while Mr. Mipps had been chatting, and
he was putting two and two together, and the result
was four black marks against the sexton, for he knew
him to be out of his own mouth an adventurer, and,
when it came to the push, an unscrupulous one. Also
he had confessed to having had dealings with buccaneers,
and the captain was quick enough to see that he must
have been hand in glove with the ringleaders, probably
a ringleader himself, a man of the stamp of England and
Clegg. Then he had counted no less than thirteen
coffins — finished coffins with closed lids — in the shop,
and he knew that there were only two bodies awaiting
burial in the place — the doctor, Sennacherib Pepper,
and the sailor killed at the vicarage. Therefore, what
were the others for.^^ That they were misfits was out
of the question, for Mipps was too shrewd a man to
make eleven misfits; besides, he would have broken
them up for fresh material. No, those eleven coffins
were destined for other things besides corpses. And
the fourth black mark against the sexton was his ter-
rible hypocrisy and the ready wit that hid it. If any
man was interested and deeply interested in the great
smuggling scheme of Romney Marsh he felt that Mipps
was the man, the man-tool of another's brain, another
man mightier than Mipps — the squire probably, Doctor
THE SEXTON SPEAKS 189
Syn possibly, though he had yet to bring the test to
bear upon that curious and enigmatical vicar. But
although as yet Doctor Syn was beyond his mental
grasp, the Sexton Mipps was within it. He knew that
he could make him victim, he was, in fact, sure of his
guilt, and, knowing all he did of the man's character,
he fell to wondering how it had been possible for him
to fall under the spell of his fascination, for apart from
Doctor Syn, whose personality had strongly appealed
to him, he would rather have had Mipps for his friend
than the rest of the village put together, for that odd
little man had a rare way of making you like him, for
over all his astute cunning hung a veil, an imperceptible
something, that was nearly if not altogether lovable.
But the hunter goes to no pains to rehearse the beauty
of an animal he is stalking, and the captain knew that
as soon as he was ready to strike, no amount of personal
fascination possessed by any criminal that he was after
would stay his hand w^hen the crucial moment came to
destroy, and so he puzzled out his plans for cornering
not only Mipps but every wrong 'un on the Marsh, and
if the squire and Doctor Syn were in the bag — well, so
much the better for the bag.
THE devil's tiring HOUSE
IF THE village was abed by ten o'clock, the coffin
shop was very much alive at half an hour after
midnight. Jerk, according to his instructions,
found himself tapping upon the back window at that
very hour and immediately found himself hauled into
the house by Mr. Mipps himself. The sexton wore a
voluminous riding cloak, heavily tippeted, and a black
mask hid the upper part of his face, but Jerk could see
by a glance at the fine sharp jaws that Mipps had laid
aside his oiliness of manner, his sarcastic wit, and cring-
ing self-complacency, and was allowing the real man
that was in him to shine forth for once in a way prob-
ably for his express advantage. Jerk now saw the
iron qualities in the sexton that had struck the love
spark upon the flinty bosom of Mrs. Waggetts, for as
Mipps walked about among his men, from room to
room, and in and out of the coffin shop, which was heav-
ily shuttered, he carried a power upon his shoulders
that would have done credit to Boney himself. And
the company that Jerk found himself among — well, if
the young hangman had suddenly found himself in the
THE DEVIL'S TIRING HOUSE 191
greenroom of Drury Lane Theatre in the midst of the
great play actors, he could not have been more sur-
prised, for therCj collected altogether, were the jack-o'-
lanterns, the Marsh witches, and the demon riders, all
preparing themselves as for a country fair. Grizzly
old men, fishermen, and labourers, as the case might
be, were arranging themselves in torn rags of women's
garments, and with a few deft touches of Mipps's hands,
lo I the fishermen and labourers were no more, and Marsh
witches took their place. Similarly were the big fel-
lows, hulking great men of Kent, metamorphosed into
demons, enormous demons upon whose faces Mipps
stuck heavy moustaches and hairy eyebrows of a most
alarming nature. The grizzled ones likewise used horse-
hair in long streamers from their conical hats, so that
their appearance as witchfolk should be the more pro-
nounced. There were also three little boys and two
little girls dressed as jack-o'-lanterns. They were much
younger than Jerk, but their rigouts filled him with
*' Gentlemen," said Mipps, leading Jerry into this
motley throng of eccentrics, " the new recruit. A young
man wot has the eye of an eagle and the nerves of a
steel blade. Those who quarrels with this young gent'll
come off worst, if I'm not mistook, but them wot be his
friends can bank on his good faith, for he's as staunch
as a dog. Get your brandy flasks out, my devils, and
let's drink to our new recruit. Jerry Jerk his name is,
192 DOCTOR SYN
but accordin' to custom we drops all mention of private
names in this organization; so up with your glasses whilst
I rechristen him. We has power, we hasj we has devils
amongst us of very great power, for we has lawyers, and
farmers, and squires, and parsons wot be in league with
us, but the greatest enemy we has is not the revenue
swabs, nor the Admiralty uniforms, nor the bloody red-
coats, nor the Prince Regent — God bless him for a vaga-
bond and a *rip!' — no, I thinks you knows who we fears
more than all that ruck? "
"Jack Ketch! Jack Ketch!" whispered the horrible
"Why, right you are, for Jack Ketch it be," retorted
the sexton. "And here's a man wot's goin' sooner or
later to be a Jack Ketch. He's got all the gifts of the
hangman, he has — just that jolly way with him, he has
• — and so you'll all be delighted to hear as how he's
joined us, for with Jack Ketch as our friend we'll cheat
the black cap on the gallows. Gentlemen, Jack Ketch. '^
Therefore they all drank to Jerk with much spirit, and
Jerk, having been presented with a flask, pledged them
in return and was introduced to all severally by the
sexton. "This is Beelzebub, knocked over a good round
dozen revenue swabs in your time, ain't you, Beelzebub.'^
And this is Belch the demon, the finest rider we ever
had in our demon horse, and here's Satan, and this be
Cat'seyes, the weirdest old witch you ever met with in
a story book, I'll wager," and so on until such a vast
THE DEVIL'S TIRING HOUSE 193
collection of weird names had been rammed into Jerk's
brains that he felt quite overpowered. However, when
his own particular uniform was produced for him to don,
his interests were requickened, and before Mipps had
half finished attiring him in the strange rags Jerk would
have sworn that it wasn't himself he saw in the old
"And now. Jack Ketch," said Mipps, "you only has
to follow me into the cofiin shop to get your allowance
of devil's face cream, then I thinks you'll feel real
pleased with yourself."
Into the weird coffin shop accordingly Jerry followed
the sexton, and there was that black cauldron that he
remembered so well. Now he would discover its use,
Mipps stirred the contents and with a great brush began
daubing Jerry's face. The curious smell made the
youngster close his eyes and he felt the brush pass over
"Now," said the sexton, "I blows out the candles and
you shall see." Jerry opened his eyes as the sexton
blew out the lights. "Bring in the mirror!" called the
sexton to the other room. And then into the coffin
shop came the other members of the company, and the
mystery of the demon riders was explained, for in the
dark room each diabolical face glistened like the moon,
and when the cracked mirror had been held up before
him he saw that he in his turn burned with the same hell-
fire. "It's now time, Satan, to get the scarecrow in.
194 DOCTOR SYN
and you, Beelzebub, go and paint the horses with what's
left in that cauldron."
Beelzebub obeyed the sexton promptly and, picking
up the cauldron, wxnt to the back of the house, Satan
accompanying him on his different errand — namely,
that of bringing in the scarecrow, a thing that puzzled
Mipps seemed to read his thoughts, for he approached
and whispered: "Jack Ketch, you're a-wonderin' about
the scarecrow now, ain't you.f^ Well, you've noticed
him, I dare say, all dressed in black, at the bottom of
my turnip field, ain't you? "
"Yes," replied the new christened Jack Ketch; "I've
noticed him as long as I can remember, and a very life-
like scarecrow I considers him to be."
"You're right," replied the sexton; "it's the best
scarecrow I ever seed, for it's lifelike and no mistake,
and if you keeps your eyes open you'll see him a bit
more lifelike to-night — you wait."
Satan soon reappeared bearing on his shoulder the
dead lump of the scarecrow. Mipps indicated an old
coffin that lay on the floor behind the counter of the
shop and Satan at once pushed the scarecrow into it,
and covered him with a lid.
"He'll be there till the work's done," said Mipps,
"for you see the great man himself rides out at nights
as the scarecrow, and if you keep your eyes open you'll
spot him. Now, Beelzebub," as that terror reappeared,
THE DEVIL'S TIRING HOUSE 195
"I take it that them horses is all ready; so bear in mind
that my friend Jack Ketch is new to the game, and stick
by him, and good luck to you devils, and may the mists
guard the legion from all damned swabs!" And so the
company filed out of the Devil's Tiring House after
receiving this parting blessing at the hands of the sex-
"Ain't you coming along, Hellspite?" said one of the
ghastly crew to the sexton.
"No, Pontius Pilate, I ain't," replied Mipps, "for
me and the blunderbuss is a-goin' to watch that damned
And so they left him there, Beelzebub leading Jerry
by the hand out of the back door of Old Tree Cottage.
THE scarecrow's LEGION
THE company found their steeds in the turnip
field at the back of the house, guarded so re-
ligiously during the daytime by the old scare-
crow that now reposed in the coffin — horses and ponies
decked out with weird trappings and all tethered to a
low fence that bordered one of the dykes. Jerry's
horse, or, rather, the missing schoolmaster's horse, was
brought to him by Beelzebub himself, whom Jerry very
soon discovered to be a most entertaining and affable
devil. It was fortunate indeed for Jerry that he was
a good rider, and had a knowledge of the Marsh, for
the cavalcade immediately set out across the fields,
breaking into a high gallop, leaping dykes and sluices
in such a reckless fashion that it was a marvel indeed
to the boy that his old scragbones could keep pace with
them; for Beelzebub rode at his side on a strong farm
horse and kept urging him to a higher speed. It was
nothing more nor less than a haphazard cross-country
steeplechase, and the young adventurer was caught in
the thrill of it. How exhilarating it was to ride through
the night with those reckless fellows, but he would not
THE SCARECROW'S LEGION 197
altogether have relished it had Beelzebub not proved
himself such an indefectible and capable pilot.
"Heels in hard, Jack Ketch, when I tell you. Now ! "
And hard went the heels in, and neck to neck went the
horses straight at the broad dyke. "Yoikes!" And
up they would go, crashing down again into the rush
tops on the far side. And in this way they traversed
the Marsh for six miles till they reached the highroad
under Lympne Hill. There they drew rein at a spot
where three roads met. At the bend of these roads
Jerry could see a man on a tall gray horse.
''That's the Scarecrow," whispered Beelzebub.
** That's the great man hisself."
One of the jack-o'-lanterns trotted off on his pony
toward this figure, and Jerk saw him salute the Scare-
crow, who handed him a paper. Saluting again, the
youngster came back to Beelzebub, who took the paper
from him and read it carefully by the light of the young
jack's lantern. These boys carried lanterns fixed upon
long poles, bearing them standard fashion as they rode.
As he was reading, Beelzebub kept catching in his
breath in an excited manner, and as he tucked the paper
away in his belt he muttered: "May the Marsh be good
to the Scarecrow to-night!" Jerry instinctively looked
down the road to where the Scarecrow had been stand-
ing, but horse and rider had disappeared. "Ah! Jack
Ketch," said Beelzebub, "you are wondering wot's be-
come of him, eh? You'd need an eye of quicksilver
198 DOCTOR SYN
to keep sight of him. Here, there, and everywhere, and
all at once he is, and astride the finest horse on Romney
Marsh, a horse wot 'ud make the Prince Regent's
mouth water, a horse more valuable to the Scarecrow
than the Bank of England 'ud be."
"But where's he gone to?" asked Jerry.
"About his business and thine. Jack Ketch," an-
"I wish I'd seen him go," returned Jerry, "for I likes
to see a good horse on the move. He went very silent,
"You'll never hear the noise of the Scarecrow's horse
a-trottin', Jack Ketch, 'cos he's got pads on his hoofs.
Ah! he's up to some tricks, is the Scarecrow, and, by
hell! he'll need 'em to-night."
"Why?" asked Jerk.
"Because he's had word passed from Hellspite that
the King's men are out, and Scarecrow thinks as how
we may have to fight 'em."
"And don't you want to do that?"
"Why, you see it 'ud be awkward if any of us got
wounded, as wounded men ain't easy things to hide
in a village now, is they? and it 'ud be a difficult busi-
ness to explain. Though, come to that. Scarecrow
ain't never put out for an explanation o' nothing."
As he was speaking, Beelzebub took Jerry's rein and
started off again at the head of the cavalcade. Their
way was now along the road the Scarecrow had gone,
THE SCARECROW'S LEGION 199
and when they had ridden for about half a mile they
again sighted him, sitting his horse stockstill in the
middle of the road, but this time he was not alone, for
there were some half-dozen men leading packponies
from the road into a large field. Toward this field
Beelzebub led his cavalcade, and consequently they
had to pass the grim figure called the Scarecrow. Jerry
was ambitious to get a near view of this strange per-
sonage, for he wanted if possible to pierce his disguise
and see if he could recognize the features. But the
nearer he got, the stranger the strange figure became.
If it was any one that he knew, then it was only the
scarecrow in Mipps's turnip field, for he was as like that
as two peas are alike to each other.
And the voice was not like any voice he could put an
owner to, although there was something familiar in it.
It was a hard, metallic voice, the voice of a commander.
*'The King's men are watching the Mill House Farm,
so, Beelzebub, you will circle the packponies as usual
till we get half a mile from the house, then you will cut
off and decoy them from the rear. If your attack is
sudden and fierce they will have all they can do to de-
fend themselves, and so that will afford the Mill House
Farm men time to get their packponies in with the
others. I will see that they get them away safely, and
when you have shaken off the King's men pick us up
again on the Romney road opposite Littlestone Beech.
200 DOCTOR SYN
"Understood, Scarecrow, understood," replied Beel-
"And," went on the strange man, "you will stick by
Jack Ketch as far as possible, and don't let him get
into any needless danger. I want him to see all the
fun that is possible, but I don't want any hurt to come
to him. If I alter the plans, I'll pass the word. Under-
"Understood, Scarecrow, understood," repeated Beel-
"Then off you go!"
And off they did go, the packponies, trotting under
their heavy loads of wool, keeping along the edges of
the field, and this with a very good purpose, for where
the dykes run zigzag over Romney Marsh a thick mist
arises some eight feet high, and even upon nights of
full moon these mists hang about the dykes like heavy
rolls of a spider's web, contrasting strangely with the
rest of the country, which is all bright and easily seen.
And now Jerk had to ride even faster than before, for
the packponies, entirely hidden by the mist curtains,
were circled and circled all the way by the galloping
demons and jack-o'-lanterns, these last swinging their
pole lights round their heads and uttering strange cries
like those of the Marsh fowl, weird and ominous. This
accounted, then, for all the ghost tales he had heard,
for all the ghostly things those not in the secret had
seen upon the Marsh, and a very clever scheme Jack
THE SCARECROW'S LEGION 201
thought it was, and a very good way of clearing the
ground of the curious. For there is no power like super-
stition, and nothing that spreads quicker or is more
grossly exaggerated than tales of horror and fear. So
on they rode in wild circles round and round the pack-
ponies. Beelzebub was the actual leader. He it was
who gave the orders, but the mysterious Scarecrow
would dash out of the mist every now and again just
to see that all was well with the legion, and then as
quickly would he disappear, borne away like a ghost
upon that spectral gray thoroughbred.
Jerry of course knew the terror with which the pallid
host could affect the unwary wayfarer — for had he not
seen them himself on the night of Sennacherib's murder .^^
— but had he needed other proof he would have got it
in the case of a small encampment of gypsies. They
were not a recognized band of gypsies, but a wandering
family, tramping from town to town, from village to
village, getting what they could here and what they
shouldn't there, to keep the poor life in their bodies.
The gallopers came upon them in a ditch. They had
lanterns there and a small fire around which three men
and a young lad were sleeping. There was an old crone
rocking herself to sleep on one side of the fire, and oppo-
site, between two of the sleeping men, was a younger
woman. Her garments were tattered and ragged to
the last degree, and her shoulders and arms showed
bare, for she had wrapped her shawl round the babe
202 DOCTOR SYN
that was crying in her arms. The sudden appearance
of the awful riders spread instant panic in this little
circle. The old crone shrieked to her menfolk to
awake, but before they could get to their feet the horses
were upon them. Beelzebub, with daredevil precision,
rode straight through the wood fire, his horse bellowing
with fright as he scattered the crackling sticks. The
young mother just avoided Jerry's horse as he came
crashing through after Beelzebub, and the shriek of
fear that she gave made Jerry turn heartsick as he
reined in his mount.
"An ill-famed baggage, I'll be sworn," said Beelze-
bub . ' ' 'Twould have been a good thing had you ridden
her down, and as for the brat, such devil spawn should
be put out of their misery."
"Now I should have thought devil spawn would have
had rather a way with us." At which sally Beelzebub
clapped Jerk on the back, and declared that he was a
good Ketch, a remarkable good Ketch, and as the young
recruit had all he could do saving his own neck every
minute as they leaped backward and forward over the
dyke, this unpleasant episode was forgotten, or, rather,
slid back into his brain like the memory of a nightmare
slides when we dream again. On they dashed, but
stopping at numerous farms on the way, where they
always found more packponies waiting to join the
cavalcade. And the Scarecrow was always somewhere.
As soon as any little hitch occurred — as one frequently
THE SCARECROW'S LEGION 203
did when the men placed the temporary bridge over the
dykes for the transit of the pack-ponies — the Scare-
crow would suddenly appear in their midst, giving
sharp orders, whose prompt obedience meant an instant
end to the difficulty, wdiatever it chanced to be. But
it was the laying of this same temporary bridge that
caused most of the delays, for it was a cumbersome thing
to move about, and it had to be built strong enough to
support the weight of the packponies. These ponies,
too, caused considerable bother at some periods of the
march, as their packs of wool would sometimes shake
loose from the harness, and the cavalcade would have
to stop while this was being remedied. But although
the packponies stopped often, the demon riders were
never allowed that luxury. Beelzebub untiringly
flagged the horse round and round, now in large cir-
cuits, now in small circles, always ringing in the pack-
ponies from any prying eyes. It would have meant
death to any one who got a view within that sweeping
scythe of cavalry. And as murders on the Marsh were
all put down to Marsh devils, except in the case of Sen-
nacherib Pepper — for there was then a likely assassin
known to be at large upon the Marsh to lay the deed to
— and because of the dreaded superstition that had
grown in the minds of Kentish folk, the smugglers were
utterly callous as to what crimes they perpetrated, for
they were as safe from the law as the most law-abiding
citizen, for those who didn't credit the existence of
204 DOCTOR SYN
murdering hobgoblins at least possessed sufficient fear
of the smugglers themselves to leave them alone; for,
after all, it was no business of any one but the revenue
men, and so to the revenue men were they left, and in
nearly every record it may be seen that the revenue men
got the worst of it.
THE FIGHT AT MILL HOUSE FARM
MILL HOUSE FARM was the last on Beelze-
bub's list, and in the dyke facing the house,
but on the other side of the highroad
crouched the King's men, commanded by the captain's
bo'sun. They were as still as mice, for the captain had
given strict orders to the bo'sun on that score, but they
need not have put themselves to such pains, for owing to
the extreme vigilance of Sexton Mipps the smugglers
knew exactly where they were and what they were
going to do.
Now it is depressing to the most seasoned fighters to
have to crouch for hours in a soaking muddy dyke wait-
ting for an outnumbering enemy; for it was common
knowledge that if smuggling was carried on upon the
Marsh, it was well manipulated and relied for its secrecy
upon the strength and numbers of its assistants. So
the bo'sun had no easy task in keeping his men from
grumbling; for whatever Captain Collyer's opinion
may have been with regard to maintaining the law
according to his duty, it was pretty evident that his
men had no great relish for the task, and the bo'sun
206 DOCTOR SYN
heartily wished that the captain had not left him re-
sponsible, for his absence was having a poor effect upon
the men, and the unfortunate bo'sun was greatly afraid
that they would fail to put up a good fight when the
time came. It is one thing to fight an enemy, but quite
another to shoot down your own countrymen, and al-
though every man jack of them was itching for the
French war, they felt no enthusiasm for this suppres-
sion of smuggling, for the whole of the countryside would
have taken the side of the lawbreakers, and who knows
how many of these same King's men had not them-
selves done a very profitable trade with the illegal car-
goes from France.
These were the feelings that existed as the King's
men lay in the dyke opposite Mill House Farm, listen-
ing to the noise of ponies' hoofs in the yard, and waiting
to fire upon any one who presented himself.
But the order "Not to kill, but to fire low," also
damped their spirits, for what chance would they have
against desperate fellows keeping their necks out of the
rope, who would not hesitate but would rather aim to kill .^
The bo'sun had great difficulty in preventing one old
seadog who lay next him in the ditch from voicing his
opinion of the proceedings in a loud bass voice, but
what he did say he after all had the good grace to whis-
per, though a whisper that was none too soft at that.
"What the hell's the sense, Mr. Bo'sun, of sending
good seamen like we be to die like dogs in this blamed
THE FIGHT 207
ditch ? Ain't England got no use for seamen nowadays ?
'Tain't the members of Parleyment wot'll serve her
when it comes to fighting, though they does talk so very
"They don't talk as much as you do," was the hushed
retort of the bo'sun.
"Look ye 'ere, Job Mallet," went on the seadog,
"you've been shipmate o' mine fer longer than I well
remembers, and you be in command here. Well, I
ain't a-kickin' against your authority, mind you, but
I'm older than you be, and I want to voice my opinion
to you, which is also the opinion of every mother's son
in this damned ditch. Why don't we clear out of this
and be done with the folly .^^ We looks to you, Job
Mallet, I say we looks to you as our bo'sun, and a very
good bo'sun you be, we looks to you, we does, to save
us bein' made fools of. We wants to fight the Frenchies
and not our own fellows. The Parleyment's a-makin'
a great mistake puttin' down the smugglers. If they
only talked nice to 'em they'd find a regiment or two
o' smugglers very handy to fight them ugly Frenchies.
For my own part I don't see why the Parleyment don't
put down other professions for a bit and leave the smug-
glers alone. Why not give lawyers a turn, eh? They
could do with a bit o' hexposin'! Dirty swabs! And
so could the doctors wot sell coloured water for doses.
Bah! dirty, dishonest fellows! But, oh, no! It's al-
ways the poor smugglers who be really hard-working
208 DOCTOR SYN
fellows; and very good fighters they be, too, as we'll soon
be called upon to see."
All this time Job Mallet tried to silence him, but
threats, persuasions, and arguments were all alike use-
"Old Collywobbles thinks the same as wot we does."
"I'll have you to remember," whispered the bo'sun
stiffly, "that I bein' in command in this 'ere ditch don't
know as to who you be alludin' when you say Colly-
wobbles. I don't know no one of that name."
"Oh, ain't you a stickler to duty.^^" chuckled the
seadog. "Still I respec's you fer it, though p'raps
you'll permit me to remind you as how it was you in the
fo'csle of the Resistance as gave the respected Captain
Howard Collyer, R. N., the pleasant pet name of Colly-
wobbles. Though p'raps that's slipped your memory
for the moment."
"It has," answered the bo'sun.
"Very well, then, but you can take it from me as
how it was, so there, and a very clever name it be, too ;
but there, you always was one of the clever ones. Job
"I wish I were clever enough to make your fat mouth
shut, I do," muttered the bo'sun.
"Now, then, Job Mallet, don't you begin getting to
personalities. But there, now, I don't want to quarrel
with you. You've always had my greatest respec's,
you has, and as we'll probably be stiff 'uns in a few
THE FIGHT 209
minutes, we won't quarrel, old pal. But I give you
my word that I don't like being shot down like a rabbit,
and I'm sorry as how it's you as is in command, 'cos if
it was any one else I declares I'd get up now and walk
home to bed."
"If Captain Collyer was here, you know you'd do
nothing of the sort."
"Why, ain't he here.'^ That's wot I wants to know.
Strike me dead! it's easy enough to send out poor old
seadogs to be shot like bunny rabbits. I could do
that. There ain't no pluck in that, as far as I can see,
though p'raps I be wrong, and if I be wrong, well, I'll
own up to it, for I don't care bein' put in the wrong of
it when I is in the wrong of it."
"You ain't a-settin' a very good example to the young
men, I'm thinkin'," said Job Mallet. "You, the oldest
seaman here, and a-grumblin' and a-gossipin' like an
old housewife. You ought to think shame on yourself,
"Oh, well," growled the other, "I won't utter another
blarsted word, I won't. But if you does want to know
my opinion in these 'ere proceedin's, it's — hell ! "
"I don't say as how I don't agree with you," returned
Job Mallet, "but there it is and we've got to make the
best of it. It won't do no good a-grumblin'. We'll
make the best of a bad job, and I hopes as I for one will
be able to do my duty, 'cos I don't relish it no more
than you do."
210 DOCTOR SYN
"Well, strike me blind, dumb, and deaf!" thundered
the seadog in a voice of emotion as he clapped Job
Mallet on the back, "if I've been a snivellin' powder
monkey I ought to be downright ashamed of myself,
and seein' as how I be the oldest seaman here, instead
— well, I'm more than damned downright ashamed. Job
Mallet, thank you ! You set a good example to us all,
Mister Bo'sun, and I'll stand by you for one. Damn
the smugglers, and wait till I get at 'em, that's all!"
"Thank yer," said the bo'sun, "but you'll greatly
oblige me by keeping quiet, 'cos here be the smugglers^
if I ain't mistook."
Indeed at that instant along the road came the sound
of the sharp, quick steps of the packponies. At pres-
ent they were hidden in the mist which floated thickly
about that part of the Marsh, but they could not only
hear the ponies but a sound of a voice singing as well.
This voice was raised in a wailing monotone and the
words were repeated over and over again. They were
intended for the ears of the wretched sailors who were
waiting in the ditch for the attack:
"Listen, oh, you good King's men who are waiting
to shoot us from the damp ditch. We have got your
kind captain here, a blunderbuss a-looking at the back
of his head. If you fire on us, good King's men, then
the blunderbuss will fire at the good captain, and then :
"*A11 the King's horses and all the King's men
Could not put captain together again.'"
THE FIGHT 211
Even if the words were not sufficient to explain the
situation to the sailors, the first figures of the cavalcade
were all sufficient. A donkey led by two jack-o'-lanterns
on foot jolted out of the fog. Upon its back was a man
bound and gagged, supported on either side by two
devil-men. That the gagged wretch was the captain
needed no words to tell, for his uniform showed by the
lantern's light, and there right behind him, sure enough,
was the blunderbuss in question, pointed by a snuffy little
devil called by his colleagues Hellspite, who sat hunched
up on a shoddy little pony. This little group h alted at a
convenient distance from the sailors in the ditch, and
Hellspite again rehearsed his little speech, ending up
"*A11 the King's horses and all the King's men
Could not put captain together again.' "
Now the poor bo'sun in command had all his life
grown so used to taking other people's orders that he
didn't know what to do for the best. He liked the cap-
tain and didn't want to see him killed, though he knew
what he must be suffering in his ridiculous position.
He knew that had the captain but got the use of his
speech he would have shouted, "Fire! and be damned
to 'em!" But then the captain had not got the use of
speech. The Scarecrow and Hellspite knew enough
of the man to see to that, and as they had no great
desire to be fired at, they had seen that the gags were
212 DOCTOR SYN
efficient. So it was, after all, small wonder that the old
grumbling seadog next to him, who possessed a rollick-
ing vein of humour, laughed until he rolled back into
the mud, for the sight was enough to make the pro-
verbial cat laugh, much less a humorous old tar, and
the rest of the men were divided into two classes, some
following the example of the bo'sun and being struck
stiff with amazement and powerless wrath, others join-
ing the laughing tar in the muddy ditch and guffawing
over the ridiculous situation of their captain, for he was
not the build of man to sit an ass with any dignity, not
being at all akin to a Levantine Jew, but very absurd
in his naval uniform, with the cocked hat literally cocked
right down over his nose. It was this sudden surprise
that made the sailors utterly unprepared for what fol-
lowed. A large party of horse swept out of the mist
behind them, and when they turned to see what fresh
thing was amiss there was a gallant line of terrible
cavalry pulling up on their haunches a few yards in
their rear. Thus they were cut off on both sides: at
their back the devils with flaming faces, on horses of
alarming proportions, and in front, their captain, wait-
ing for them to shoot, to meet his own death by the
little demon's blunderbuss:
" * If you fire, you good King's men,
Then the devil shall blarst your captain.'**
*'And you as well, you good King's men!" shrieked
THE FIGHT 213
and howled the terrible demons at the back, who covered
with pistols or blunderbuss every Jack Tar in the ditch.
Then another rider appeared on the scene. He was
tall, thin, and of ungainly countenance, and he rode a
light gray thoroughbred. He was the Scarecrow, and
all the devils hailed him by that name as he appeared.
Behind him came the packponies, some sixty or seventy
in all, and on each pony was a wool pack that would
have meant a human neck to the King's hangman if
only Colly er were free to work his will. The Scarecrow
drew up in the road and watched the great procession
of ponies pass along toward the coast. When they had
all but passed he gave a signal, and the doors of Mill
House barn were opened and ten more heavily laden
ponies trotted out and joined the snake of illegal com-
merce that was wriggling away to the sea. Then like
some field-marshal upon the field of battle did the Scare-
crow slow^ly ride over a small bridge and then along
the front of his demon cavalry. Jerry Jerk heard him
give a short order to Beelzebub as he passed, and then
saw him gallop away after the packponies. And then
came the ordeal for the King's men, for they were kept
in that uncomfortable position for a full two hours, or
maybe even longer. Folly to move, folly to fight, there
they had to stop — a foolish-looking group of fighting
men, if you like, but more foolish had they attempted
resistance, for they were outnumbered in men, in arms,
and in wits. Once, indeed, did the bo'sun nearly lose his
214 DOCTOR SYN
head, and that was when Hellspite lowered his blunder-
buss and produced a clay pipe which he lit. The bo'sun
saw a chance, spat in his hand, grasped his cutlass, and
clambered from the dyke. But instantaneously came
the ominous noise of cocking pistols, and the old sea-
dog grabbed the bo'sun's leg and pulled him back swear-
ing into the mud. Hellspite chuckled and smoked his
pipe, the horsemen covered every man in the ditch
with cocked weapons, and so another hour passed
over the curious group. Suddenly from over the Marsh
came the cry of a curlew, weird and repeated seven
times. Hellspite put up his pipe and muttered an order
to the two devils by the donkey, and then he addressed
"Now, good sailors, we will trouble you for your
arms. Pass them up to good Job Mallet and he shall
stretch his legs and lay them at my feet."
But again Job Mallet lost his head. He arose in the
ditch and sang out bravely: "You and the rest of you
are damned cowards in silencing the mouth of our cap-
tain. Had he his voice you know what he'd say —
'Shoot and be damned to you!' and well you know it.
Why don't you meet us in fair fight, you damned cow-
ards, instead of using such devil's tricks .f^"
" 'Cos we ain't so bloody-minded as the good King's
bo'sun," answered Hellspite in a piping voice, which
drew forth a great laugh from the devils.
One of the seamen, considering that all eyes were now
THE FIGHT 215
upon the bo'sun, leaped from the ditch and made a rush
for Hellspite with his naked cutlass. Five or six pistols
cracked behind him and over he fell, face downward in
the road. Every shot had taken effect : he was dead.
*' Oh, do keep your little heads, you silly King's men ! '*
wailed Hellspite, *'for look how we've spoiled that nice
little man. He's no use now to fight the French, no
use at all. Oh, what a pity, w^hat a pity, what a pity ! "
Again came the cry of the curlew, seven times.
*'Now, then, those weapons!" ordered Hellspite
sharply, "and if they don't come along quick we'll put
this captain out of service along with his man there."
There was nothing for it but to obey. They were
in the demons' power. The sailors had found that the
smugglers were good shots and that they meant busi-
ness. No, there was nothing for it but to hand over
their arms to the bo'sun, who with bad grace laid them
upon the roadway, whence they were picked up by the
jack-o'-lanterns, who bore them into the barn.
"Now, then, my fine fellows," said Hellspite, "we'll
plump this 'ere captain on the road. You will pick
him up if you want him and take him home to bed, for
the dawn ain't far off, and as the wool packs are safe
and away, we'll bid you good repose."
The captain was accordingly lifted from the donkey
and laid upon the road. The sailors were filed up
around him, and conducted ingloriously back to the
vicarage barn. Three devils, having been told off for
216 DOCTOR SYN
the purpose, bore away the body of the dead seaman,
so that before the dawn lit up the Marsh there was no
sign of smugglers anywhere, and Jerry Jerk, after dis-
robing with the others at the coffin shop, was packed
off home to bed by Beelzebub, where, without disturb-
ing his grandparents, he fell immediately to sleep, and
dreamed his whole adventure over again.
Just as the dawn was breaking Mipps was returning
from the vicarage barn, where he had deposited a bundle
of weapons outside the door, when he saw a yellow-faced
man creeping along the field by the churchyard wall.
As he watched the figure disappear into a deep dyke he
muttered: "I wonder if that there thing is real or
unreal? I wonder if he did get off that reef in his body?
If he did, what the blarsted hell's he findin' to live upon?
and if he ain't — well, God help one of us in this 'ere
place!" And he scurried back to the coffin shop like a
CAPTAIN COLLYER ENTERTAINS AN ATTORNEY FROM RYE
IT WAS something of a difficult position which Cap-
tain Collyer was called upon to face. That he had
cut a ridiculous figure no one was more conscious
than himself, and being made absurd before his own
men made the situation doubly difficult. But Captain
Collyer preserved his dignity in a most meritorious
When the smugglers had gone and the bo'sun had
freed him from his bonds, he stood up in the barn and
addressed the sailors : "My men," he began, "we have
been badly beaten. Without a blow you were forced
to lay down your arms, which I well know must have
been a hard thing for you to do. After I had given the
bo'sun orders of the night's plan I went out to verify
certain suspicions that I had formed against certain
folk upon the Marsh. I was congratulating myself on
how well I was succeeding, when I found myself a help-
less prisoner in the wretches' hands. I had walked
blindly into a very clever trap. As you saw for your-
selves, my captors made such a complete job of me that
I was helpless to speak to you or give you any sign.
218 DOCTOR SYN
Under the circumstances, I must thank the bo'sun for
his gallant behaviour. I appreciate what he did, for he
saved my life, although perhaps I could almost find it
in my heart that he had acted otherwise, for a good
seaman's death is now on my hands — brave Will Ru-
drum, who was shot dead on the road. I also cannot
find it in my heart to reprimand Joe Dickinson for his
fit of laughter, because nobody saw the humour and
disgrace of my position as much as I did myself. But
when a man's life is forfeited all humour slips away, and
so it has for me and for you, I'm sure, who were Will
Rudrum's comrades at arms. I am very thankful that
my life has been spared for this one purpose — namely,
of avenging poor Rudrum's death — and if any one
should and can avenge him, I hold myself to be that
man. For this purpose I intend to take you all into
my confidence. Having failed dismally so far, I do not
wish to fail again; therefore, listen. In the first place,
we are not a strong enough body to cope with these
Marshmen. I shall therefore demand a strong body of
reinforcements. There are redcoats at Dover and there
are seamen at Rye. To both of these towns shall I send
couriers. Also at Rye there is a remarkable old man, a
wise man, an attorney-at-law. He will meet me this
very day at the Ship Inn, and will undertake all the
legal points with regard to the arrests which I shall
make as soon as I have gathered up a few more facts.
Will Rudrum was the first to fall in a good cause, for this
AN ATTORNEY FROM RYE 219
comer of England is a very hotbed of enemies to the
government. Bo'sun, you will serve out an extra allow-
ance of rum at once, for we must drink together."
The rum was served and the captain raised his pan-
"To the swift avenging of poor Will Rudrum, to the
quick regaining of our dignity, and to the speedy hang-
ing of his Majesty's foes!"
The men drank, and then Joe Dickinson shouted:
''And to our captain, God bless him, and blast them as
does him dirty tricks!"
This toast was drunk greedily, and then the bo'sun
led three cheers — three cheers which went echoing out
of the old barn across the Marsh with a strength that
made many a smuggler turn in his bed uneasily.
When they opened the barn door at daybreak to let
the captain go forth, they found there a neat pile of
weapons: his Majesty's pistols and his Majesty's cut-
lasses were all returned.
"Aye, but there's some honour amongst thieves,
sir!" exclaimed the bo'sun.
"Devil a bit of it!" said the captain. "The rascals
know that we can soon get substitutes, and they've no
wish to have such telltale things discovered on their
premises. There's more good sense than honour in it,
I'm thinking, Job Mallet."
At ten o'clock that morning a coach rolled up to the
door of the Ship Inn and out stepped Antony Whyllie,
220 DOCTOR SYN
Esq., attorney-at-law from Rye, a man of sixty-five
years, but upright and alert as any young man. He was
attired in a bottle-green coat, black satin breeches, silk
stockings, silver-buckled shoes, and faultless linen. His
gray wig, tied concisely with a black ribbon, completed
a true picture of the law : a man to desire for one's de-
fence, a man to dread for one's accusation.
The captain received him at the door of the inn and
conducted him to the privacy of his own bedchamber.
There he unburdened his mind to the lawyer, stating
all his suspicions and clearly showing how he had ar-
rived at them. By the end of the morning they thor-
oughly understood each other, the lawyer returning
by coach to Rye with orders to the governor of the
castle to prepare accommodation for a large number of
prisoners and to see to it that there were chains enough
to hang 'em to. But, strange to relate, that lawyer in
bottle green never reached the little town of Rye, for
his coach stopped at a certain farmhouse beyond Rom-
ney. Here he alighted to make room for another lawyer,
a real lawyer, a man of sixty-five, who had left Rye that
Very morning to consult with a certain Captain Collyer
residing at the Ship Inn, Dymchurch. This lawyer
had, needless to say, never arrived at Dymchurch. For
at a lonely spot on the road outside Romney a strong
body of men had awaited the arrival of his coach. While
two or three of them removed the driver from his box
to the farmhouse, where they speedily made him drunk,
AN ATTORNEY FROM RYE 221
two or three others had entered the coach, securely
gagged and blindfolded the occupant, and conveyed
him also to the house, the coach immediately proceed-
ing to Dymchurch with another coachman and another
lawyer, a man in a bottle-green coat.
The blindfolded lawyer had been scared out of all
knowledge, especially by the sound of the voice of a
certain man known as the Scarecrow. This terrible
ruffian had told the lawyer that if on returning to Rye
he breathed a word of what had happened they would
most certainly catch him again and do away with him,
adding that there was no place more convenient than
Romney Marsh for the hiding of a body. So with the
exception of telling his awful experience to his wife,
whom he feared nearly as greatly as he feared the Scare-
crow, Antony \Miyllie, attorney-at-law, held his tongue,
being only thankful that the rascals had let him off so
easily. The coachman, who was so muddled with
drink and wath falling off his box at least a dozen times
on the way back, never even remembered what had
happened or to whose kind offices he was indebted for
the privilege of becoming so gloriously drunk. So the
affair passed unheeded by the public, and the gentleman
in bottle green, having changed his clothes, might that
very afternoon have been seen going toward the church
of Dymchurch. Down into the crypt he went, and
there, at a dirty table lighted by a candle set in a bot-
tle's neck, he aided two other men to work out certain
222 DOCTOR SYN
accounts that were spread before them in a book marked
''Parish Register of Deaths." But there were no deaths
registered in that book. It was full of figures account-
ing for cargoes of wool, full of receipts for -coffins loaded
Sexton Mipps and the gentleman who had worn the
bottle-green coat then unlocked an old chest and took
out certain money bags which they emptied on the
table. The third gentleman, whom they addressed
as the Scarecrow, helped them to sort the coin, French
in one pile, English in another, and then referring to a
list of names in the register, the three managers of the
secret bank proportioned out their servants' wages.
When this was accomplished the gentleman who had
worn the bottle-green coat presented his little account,
which was promptly paid in golden guineas, and he left
them, saying that he was very sorry that it was the last
time that he would draw so many golden Georges from
"Yes, the bank closes accounts to-day," said the
Scarecrow, striking his name off the list, "though per-
haps some day we shall open it again. Who knows? "
"Let's hope so," said the other, shaking hands with
the Scarecrow and the sexton, "and let's hope we meet
again. Good-bye." And he was gone, IViipps locking
the door behind him.
" It's all right to a penny," said the Scarecrow.
"Hooray! I calls it," chuckled Sexton Mipps, rub-
AN ATTORNEY FROM RYE 223
bing his hands together. "I'll get this little lot of
coinage nailed up in a coflfin and sent to Calais, and old
What's-his-name wot's just gone up the stairs has ar-
ranged with the Calais people to get it transferred to the
Bank of Lyons, so you can get at it yourself from Mar-
seilles, can't you?"
"Yes, we're all square now. Everything shipshape.
Mother Waggetts I've settled with, and Imogene gets
the iron-bound casket. I've seen to it all. But it's
time I was off. I've a certain gentleman to see before
" Who's that.? " asked Mipps.
"The squire," replied the Scarecrow, laughing as he
tied up the money bags.
"And I have a gentleman to visit, too," said Mipps.
"Who's that.f^" asked the Scarecrow.
"Parson Syn, Doctor Syn, the worthy vicar," replied
Mipps, winking, at which the Scarecrow laughed and
went out of the crypt.
Mipps, after locking up the money in the chest, fol-
lowed leisurely, and as he crossed the churchyard he
saw Doctor Syn ringing the front door bell of the Court
"Well," murmured Mipps to himself, "I've met one
or two of 'em in my time, but he's a blinkin' marvel."
DOCTOR SYN HAS A "cALL"
DO YOU mean to say that you're going to
The squire was positively angry, a thing he
had never been with Doctor Syn in all the years that he
had known him. "You are undoubtedly pulling my
leg — that's what you're doing. God bless my soul, sir,
there's precious few fellows can do that, and precious
few that dare try; but that's what you're doing, isn't
"I'm afraid not. Sir Antony. My dear squire, my
good friend, I am afraid that for once in my life I am
most dreadfully in earnest."
"But what don't you like about the place? Is it
something I've done? Do you want your stipend
raised? Damme, I'll treble the blessed thing, if it's
that. Oh, it's that rascally son of mine that's been
putting you out. It's that Denis scamp, who never
took to his books and never will. But I'll make him.
I'll take my riding whip to the young whelp if he causes
you pain. It is he! He's at the bottom of it. My
soul and body, I'll give the young puppy a shaking up.
DOCTOR SYN HAS A "CALL" 225
He doesn't know a good tutor when he sees one. The
impertinent young popinjay! Doesn't appreciate any-
thing. No! God bless my soul, why he's no more
respect for me than a five-barred gate. He's always
doing something to jar me. Why, do you know, that
the cool-faced young malefactor announced the other
day in the most insolent manner that he was going to
marry a barmaid.^ Yes, I assure you he did. He an-
nounced to me, sir, in the most condescending tones, as
if he were conferring an inestimable favour upon my
head, that he thought I ran a very good chance of hav-
ing that girl Imogene for my daughter-in-law. You
know Imogene, that serves and waits and does innu-
merable dirty jobs at the Ship Inn; and when I expostu-
lated in fatherly tones, why, bless me, if the young
spitfire didn't fly into a passion, crying out that it was
high time one of the Cobtrees introduced some good
looks into the family. Said that to me, mind you — his
natural father that brought him into the world. I told
him that, used those very words, and what does he do
but begin to bow and scrape and praise and thank me
for bringing him into the world at the same period as
that black-haired bargirl, just as if his mother and I had
timed the thing to a nicety! Why, when I come to
think of it, she's the daughter of a common pirate, that
rascally, scoundrelly Clegg, who was hanged at Rye.
Isn't she now.^ And she's to be my daughter-in-law!
Now, Doctor Syn, in the name of Romney Marsh, what
226 DOCTOR SYN
the devil — I say, what the devil would you do if you
had a son like that to deal with? "
The squire absolutely had to stop for breath, and
Doctor Syn, who had been vainly trying to get a word
in edgewise, replied: "Well, sir, I should candidly
confess that my son was a lucky dog if he succeeded in
getting her, and which, I should very much doubt. In
fact, were I in your place, I should go so far as to bet my
wig that he would never win the girl. I'm very fond of
Denis, devoted to him in fact, but I'm afraid he'll have
a great difficulty in marrying Imogene."
" I should damn well bet my eyes he will, sir ! I need
none to tell me that. Difficulty in marrying her.? Aye,
that he will. My son will marry position, sir — money,
sir — and if beauty comes along of it, well, then, beauty,
sir, and all the better for my son, sir."
*'And provided of course that the lady is willing,"
put in the vicar.
" Willing .f^ What minx wouldn't be only too damned
willing to marry my son — old Cobtree's son; and not
so old either, sir, eh.^^ Why, any woman would jump
at the chance! And as for a bargirl, the daughter
of a dirty pirate hanged in that silly conceited little
town of Rye, why, pooh-pooh, my dear Doctor ! Laugh-
"Well, I think differently in this case. Squire," said
the Doctor. "I should call Denis a lucky dog. I
might even stretch a point and, at the risk of being un-
DOCTOR SYN HAS A "CALL" 227
frocked, say a damned lucky dog if he succeeded in
marrying that girl Imogene."
"What?" cried the squire.
"Of course," said the Doctor, "you mustn't go en-
tirely by what I say, because I hold myself very seri-
ously gifted in the judging of attractive women."
"And so do I, sir. I know she's attractive. A
damned fine, upstanding young woman, and if she were
even a county pauper I might stretch a point and ac-
cept her, but beauty comes last on my list."
"But Imogene possesses all the other necessaries re-
quired. Rich she is, and very rich, though she doesn't
know it, and although her mother was but a dancer in a
Raratonga gambling saloon, she was descended direct
from an Incan princess, and as you said * pooh-pooh' to
me, sir, why, I'll say 'pooh' back, sir: 'pooh' to your
Kentish ladies of quality, for when Imogene comes into
her own, why, damme, she could chuck their fortunes
on to every horse in the village steeplechase."
"Is she so very wealthy — that girl at the Ship Inn?
Well, perhaps I am wrong in saying that the match is
so very uneven. Perhaps I am."
"Yes," went on the vicar, "there is just the possibil-
ity that it might be brought to a successful issue, though
if you'll excuse my saying so, you are so very tactless
at times, Squire."
"What do you mean?" cried the squire hotly. "I
am none too sure that I should care for my son to marry
228 DOCTOR SYN
a bargirl, though she were the daughter of Croesus him-
"My dear Squire, cahn yourself, I beg. As a bar-
maid I admit Imogene is below Denis as regards posi-
tion, but as an Incan princess, why, my dear friend, she
is as far superior to the Cobtrees of the Court House
as the reigning house of England. Why, do you
know anything — but of course you do — of the pride,
the magnificence, the omnipotent splendour possessed
by the Incan kings .^^ Why, the Palace of White-
hall would compare most unfavourably with their scul-
"No.^ Really? "said the squire.
**And it's for the wealth and fortunes of Imogene
that I must leave you," went on the cleric — "that is,
leave you for a time, you understand.^ For although
I shall bestow upon her certain things of value that I
hold as her guardian, the bulk of her fortune has been
lying idle, but now that she is growing into womanhood,
it is high time I fulfilled my duties and lifted her money
"Then she's your adopted child, is she.^" said the
squire, pushing his wig back and scratching his head.
"Well, I suppose that's how it stands in a sense,"
replied the Doctor. "When that rascal Clegg died he
actually paid me a good sum of money to see that his
daughter was provided for, and of course I've kept that
money for her till she came to years of discretion. He
DOCTOR SYN HAS A 'XALL" 229
also told me where England's treasure was buried, and
that's what I'm off to get."
"England's treasure? What's that?" asked the
"Clegg was a partner of England, the notorious pi-
rate. It is said that he killed England in a quarrel,
though nothing was proved of it. Anyhow, Clegg was
the only man who knew of the hiding-place, and at his
death he imparted the secret to me, after I had given
solemn oath upon the Bible to keep it to myself."
"God bless my soul!" said the squire, leaping to his
feet; "and do you mean to say that you've kept the
secret all this time and not fitted out a ship and gone to
lift it? Why, there may be millions there ! "
" There are," said Doctor Syn. " I'm certain of that.
That's why I've been at pains to keep the whole matter
to myself, not even telling the girl, for it will want care-
ful handling. Once let any one know that I am off to
lift Clegg's treasure-chests, and all the dogs in Christen-
dom will be nosing on my trail. Clegg had the same
fear of this secret being stolen and so committed the
exact lie of the island to my memory, and to no arti-
ficial map, but he did it so uncommon well that I can
see point, bays, lagoons, soundings, and tracks just as
if I had piloted ships there all my life."
"Then all this pious talk of wanting to go out as a
mission preacher to the smelly blacks is simply balder-
dash, and you haven't had a ridiculous 'call' at all?"
230 DOCTOR SYN
** Merely a cloak to hide my real designs.'*
"Good Lord deliver us!" said the squire, pushing his
wig clean off and allowing it to lie unheeded on the floor.
Just then there entered a servant who announced to
the squire that the girl from the Ship Inn was outside
with a note which she desired to give to the squire.
*' Ask her to be so kind as to step in," said the squire,
with a touch of deference and awakened interest.
Imogene accordingly came into the room. Per-
fectly at ease she stood there, until with almost regal
grace she accepted the chair that the squire brought for-
ward. Yes, he thought the vicar was right. Her
clothes were rough indeed, but her manner would have
sat well on an empress.
'*You have brought a note for me, I think — Imo-
gene?'' said the squire at last. He was ridiculously
uncertain whether to call her Imogene as usual, or
Madame; in fact in his confusion he was as near as not
saying Mistress Cobtree, which would have been awful.
Imogene held out a small sealed packet, and looked at
the fire, and so taken up was the squire with looking at
her and thinking of the Incan millions that, if Doctor
Syn had not shuffled his foot, he would have forgotten
to open the letter at all. But the moment he had, the
girl, the Incan millions, his anger against his son, the
mission *call ' of the Doctor, everything was forgotten,
for he crunched the letter in his hand, threw his head
back, and looking at the ceiling with the most appalled
DOCTOR SYN HAS A "CALL" 231
expression on his face, cried out: *'If there's a God in
heaven, come down quick and wring this captain's
"What is it ? " cried the vicar.
"Read it out!" yelled the squire, flinging the crum-
pled paper ball upon the table. "If you love me, read
it out and tell me what to do."
Doctor Syn recovered the note, which had bounced
from the table to the floor, and when he had unravelled
it and smoothed it straight and flat, he read :
"To Sir Antony Cobtree of the Court House, Leveller of Marsh
"Sir: I beg to inform you on behalf of the British Admi-
ralty that the person of Mister Rash, Dymchurch school-
master, has disappeared. I feel sure that there is somebody
in power who is organizing Romney Marsh for his own ends.
Somebody is running wool to France, and from the clever
organization of these runs, I know that some cultured brain is
directing affairs. Your attitude of utter indifference forces
me to suspect you. As Leveller of the Marsh Scotts you
are in a safe place to control such a scheme, and so I have
taken a strong measure in attaching the person of your son.
Mister Denis Cobtree. If the body of that unfortunate
schoolmaster, dead or alive, is not produced before me within
the next twenty-four hours, I shall take steps to force your
[Signed] "Captain Howard Collyer,
"Coast Agent and Commissioner.
"P.S. There is a press gang at work in Rye who will ship
your son to sea in twenty -four hours."
232 DOCTOR SYN
"Nowwhatamltodo? Press gang at Rye ! Twenty-
four hours! What have I got to do with that flabby-
faced schoolmaster? Where's he got to? How the
devil should I know? P'raps he thinks that I have
danced him off somewhere. Never heard of such a
thing in my life. But what am I to do? That's what
I want to know! What am I to do? My poor Denis!
Why, I wouldn't have quarrelled with him if I'd known.
Why has that schoolmaster disappeared? By what in-
fernal right, I say, has that insignificant anaemic louse
Doctor Syn then briefly related the bo'sun's story of
Rash's disappearance, which the squire listened to im-
"Well, sir," the latter exclaimed at the conclusion,
**as far as that schoolmaster's concerned, I don't mind
if he's roasting on Lucifer's spit, for I dislike the man,
but when his disappearance concerns the safety of my
son, my God! he's got to put in an appearance and be
quick about it. For I'll have him routed out of his
infernal hiding-place. I'll rouse the Marshmen and
have him routed out."
"That's all very well. Squire, but how?"
"How, sir? " echoed that irascible gentleman. " How?
Do you ask me how? Well, I don't know! How?
"That's the question," ruefully remarked Doctor
DOCTOR SYN HAS A "CALL" 233
*'0f course it is," returned the other. "Well, how
would you set about it yourself? "
"I'd beat the Marsh up from border to border."
" So I will, sir, so I will ! "
"And I should get that mulatto and hang him, for
he's a sorcerer, a witchman; and I believe that as long
as we have such a Jonah's curse among us that nothing
will come right."
"I'll do that at once. But we've only twenty-four
Imogene stood up and looked at the squire, and in a
steady voice, as if she were pronouncing a definite judg-
ment, she said: "It is enough for me. I will undertake
to find your son for you, and the schoolmaster, too."
And without waiting for a reply she swiftly passed out
of the room.
"But what can we do? " stammered the squire.
" I should find that mulatto and hang him."
"But I don't care a fig about finding him."
"You must," persisted the cleric, "for he is the cause
of the trouble. Find that mulatto, and leave the rest
to Imogene. She has spoken, and you may be sure
she'll keep her word. B ut find that mulatto ! "
A CERTAIN TREE BEARS FRUIT
JERK was kept busy all day at the Ship Inn, for
Imogene had left her post and Mrs. Waggetts,
who appeared to have grave matters of her
own to fuss about, kept the young potboy in command.
He was sorry about this, for he was unable to visit his
estate upon the Marsh, and he was eager to view his
latest purchase, the gallows. But to his great satis-
faction he heard it discussed by a farmer and a fisher-
man who sat drinking at the bar.
" I tell you that there's a gallows erected on the Marsh
nigh Littlestone Point," the fisherman was saying. "I
could see it quite plain at sunrise when we were running
up on to the beach."
"And you say that there was a man a-hangin' from
it.f^ " said the farmer.
"Aye, that's what I said, and I thought as how you
could tell me what man it was."
*'I don't know nothing," replied the farmer, "except
that the demon riders was out again last night, and if
what you says is right, why, they're at their tricks again,
I suppose. ' ' And the farmer gave the fisherman a kno w-
A CERTAIN TREE 235
ing wink. However, this didn't trouble Jerry, for the
laugh was all on his side. Not content with an empty
scaffold, he had gone out the night before, while Doctor
Syn and the captain had been chatting in the sanded
parlour, and collected two great sacks full of dried sticks
and sand, which, with the help of a few tightly knotted
lengths of twine, he had converted into the semblance
of a man, and this same dummy he had hanged from
the rusty chain. It had looked splendid swinging there
with the mist wrapped round its feet. This indeed was
playing hangman's games with a vengeance. Impa-
tient as he was to see the fruits of his labour, impatient
he had to remain, for he was not released till nightfall,
when Mrs. Waggetts entered the bar with Sexton Mipps.
Freed at last from duty, Jerry stepped outside, pulling
his hat over his eyes and tucking up his collar, for the
wind was blowing up for a cold night. He was leaving
the yard with a brisk step when he noticed a cloaked
figure coming to meet him. It was Imogene.
*' Jerry," she whispered, "who put up that gallows
on your plot of land.^"
"It's my gallows," answered Jerk proudly. "I paid
for it, and Mister Mipps it was wot helped me to set it
"It's a real one, Jerry," the girl replied.
"Yes, that it is — and ain't it fine .f^"
"But there's a man, a real man hanging there."
At this Jerk slapped his knee with enthusiasm and
236 DOCTOR SYN
cried aloud: "Now by all the barrels of rum! if I ain't
fit to take in the devil hisself , wot I believes is a sexton
dressed up. For that same corpse wot you've seed
a-danglin' from my gallows tree ain't a corpse at all,
but sticks, sand, and sacks wot I invented to look like
'* Are you sure, Jerry? " said the girl.
**I'm a-goin' out there myself now; so come along and
see for yourself."
"I've been there once this evening, Jerry."
"Well, come along o' me and you shall give the old
scarecrow wot's a-swing on my gallows a good sharp
tweak in the ribs." So off they set through the church-
yard and out over the Marsh.
"Jerry," whispered the girl presently, "there's some-
thing queer going to happen soon. Perhaps to-night.
Perhaps to-morrow night. And it's something un-
common queer, too."
"Now what makes you think that.^ " said Jerry, look-
ing up at her.
"I believe, Jerry, that there are certain tides that run
from the Channel round Dungeness that wash up the
dead seamen from the deep waters, and all the time that
they lie near shore waiting for the ebb to take 'em back
to their old wrecked ships in the deep their spirits
come ashore and roam about us. I feel that way to-
night. I can almost smell death in the air."
"Well, that's a funny notion," remarked the boy.
A CERTAIN TREE 237
turning it over in his mind, "but I dare say you are
right. After all, the sea, what does look so tidy on the
top, must have lots of ugly secrets underneath, and I
don't see why it shouldn't want to wash 'em ashore once
in a way. I've often wondered myself about the dead
what moves about inside the sea, and I thinks some-
times w^hen the high tide runs into the great sluice and
near fills the dykes that perhaps it buries things it's
sick of in the mud. P'raps it's a-doin' it now, and
that's wot's given you them notions."
"Perhaps it is, Jerry."
Now the mist was so thick that they did not get a far
view of Jerk's gallows; indeed they had crossed the
one-planked bridge over the dyke and half climbed
Gallows Tree Hill before they viewed it at all. But as
soon as they did Jerry sprang forward crying : " ^^'llo's
been messing about with my bag o' sticks .^^ "
The sacking had been torn, and from the slit appeared
a hand. Jerry seized the hand and pulled. The rusty
chain squeaked, and one of the rotten links "gave," and
the ghastly fruit of the gallows tree fell upon the young
hangman, who was borne to the ground beneath the
falling weight. Imogene, with a cry, pulled it from
him, and Jerk scrambled to his feet. Then they both
The mildewed sacking, wet with the dense mist, had
severed in the fall; the threads had rent at a hundred
points, and from the fragments of scattered debris the
238 DOCTOR SYN
dead face of Rash looked up with protruding eyes that
stared from the blood-streaked flesh.
Jerk's gallows had borne fruit.
For minutes they stood looking. The cloak had
fallen from the girl's shoulders, and the shrieking wind
flapped in her rough dress and tore at her streaming hair.
Jerk, with his ambitions fulfilled, found himself most
uncomfortably scared. For minutes neither of them
spoke. They could only stare. Stare at the huddled
horror and listen to the jangle of the broken gibbet
chain. Suddenly Imogene remembered something which
brought her back to consciousness, for she spoke:
"Jerry, after seeing that, are you afraid to return to
the village alone. f^"
Jerry had not yet found his voice, so he shook his
"Then go to the Court House and report what we've
found to the squire, and tell him that Imogene has gone
out to keep the rest of her promise."
Jerry got her to repeat the sentence again, and he
watched her leap the dyke and disappear into the mist,
and then from behind the scaffold stepped the captain.
"You'll do nothing of the kind, potboy," he said,
seizing Jerk's arm and leading him away from the scaf-
fold. "I've other work for you to do. We're going
back to the village to make our experiment."
As they stumbled across the Marsh, scrambling the
dykes that skirted the fields, the wind got up off shore.
A CERTAIN TREE 239
scattering the mists and driving them across the sea
toward the beacons of France. Half an hour later, as
the captain and Hangman ;^rk approached the vicar-
age, a small fishing boat, carrying no light but much sail,
raced before the screaming wind toward Dungeness,
and with a firm hand grasping the tiller and a great
heart beating high, stood Imogene, blinded with lash-
ing spray and her drenched streaming hair, fighting the
cruel sea to keep her word to the squire.
THE captain's EXPERIMENT
THEY entered the vicarage by the back door and
found the bo'sun roasting chestnuts on the
bars of the kitchen fire. There was another
man there, with his back to the door, and by his black
clothes and scholarly stoop Jerry recognized the vicar.
So quietly had the captain opened the door that neither
of the men roasting chestnuts was aware of their pres-
ence. They went on roasting the nuts, when an aston-
ishing thing happened: The vicar, in trying to take
out a hot chestnut from the bar, knocked three of the
bo'sun's into the red-hot coals, which so enraged the
bo'sun that he administered with his forearm a resound-
ing clump on the back of the cleric's head. Jerry
thought this a distinct liberty, but the vicar only
laughed, and when he turned round Jerry saw that it
was Morgan Walters dressed in an entire clerical suit,
and not Doctor Syn at all.
Morgan Walters looked sheepish and uncomfortable
when he beheld the captain, but the latter remarked
that his ** get-up" was magnificent, and that his black
hair, which had been carefully sprinkled by the bo'sun
THE CAPTAIN'S EXPERIMENT 241
with flour to make it gray, so nearly resembled that
of the cleric, that ^Morgan Walters was evidently in-
tended by Providence to be a parson, for such a capi-
tal one did he make. Thus encouraged, Morgan Walters
strutted about the kitchen, and the likeness to Doctor
Syn (for he was of the same build and Doctor Syn had
always the sailor's rolling gait) was so perfect that
Jerk began to laugh, but was speedily hushed by the
"Now remember, Walters," the captain said, "there's
no danger in this if you do exactly as I told you, but
you will have to be spry, of course."
"If he sticks me, then I deserves to be stuck," re-
plied Morgan Walters. "I've been Aunt Sally at the
county fairs afore now, and never got whacked, not
once. I always could bob down in time in those days,
and I didn't have no bo'sun's whistle to help me."
And then began the captain's experiment, a most
curious game, and, in spite of its tragic purpose, a
humorous game it was.
The bo'sun, whistle in mouth, was hidden in the little
front garden; the captain and Jerk crouched in the
corner of the room of which the window had no view;
while Morgan Walters, in all points resembling Doctor
Syn, sat reading in the ingle seat by the fire — sat read-
ing a book with his back to the window, from which the
shutters had been thrown open and the broken case-
ment set ajar. It was a weird occasion: the captain
242 DOCTOR SYN
crouching down in the corner holding on to young Jerk
with a warning hand, the bo'sun with his whistle
hidden in the garden, and the firelight aided by one
candle upon the table throwing the two wavering shad-
ows of the pseudo parson upon the whitewashed wall.
Jerk could hardly persuade himself that it was not the
Doctor, so clever was the rig-out of Morgan Walters,
and he could hardly forbear letting out a laugh as the
crafty seaman kept turning the pages of the book. But
he had ample time to control himself before anything
happened ; indeed, a whole hour he had to wait — an hour
which seemed a lifetime; and then the occurrence was
swift and terrible.
A shrill whistle sounded from the garden; down went
Morgan Walters's head; and with a thud which broke
the surrounding wall plaster into a thousand powdery
cracks, a great harpoon trembled in the wall, exactly
one foot above the settle.
" Gone ! " shouted the bo'sun from the garden, and he
immediately tumbled up through the window, closing
the shutters behind him.
"Well, sir," said Morgan Walters, "it wasn't the
ducking I minded when it came to it, but the waiting
"You did well, my man," said the captain. "And
now, potboy, after that little experiment I'll know how
to proceed, how to prescribe like an analyzing apothe-
cary, so, as it's Sunday to-morrow, which ain't far oflF
THE CAPTAIN'S EXPERIMENT 243
now, we'll get back to the Ship Inn, bo'sun, and you
can light us there, whilst Morgan Walters can change
his clothes and get back and to sleep."
So they left him there, the bo'sun with a lantern step-
ping before the captain and Jerk to the door of the Ship.
Just as they reached the door a horseman galloped up
from the Hythe Road and, saluting, asked if any could
direct him to Captain Collyer. As soon as the captain
had made himself know^n, Jerk saw the rider hand the
captain a blue paper, which the latter put carefully into
his pocket. Then he led the rider and the bo'sun into
the sanded parlour and gave them drinks, after which
he went home to bed and slept sound.
But back in the vicarage, just as Morgan Walters
was about to divest himself of his ecclesiastical robes,
Mr. Mipps entered with a loaded blunderbuss and re-
quested him to turn round, hold his hands above his
head, and precede him to the coffin shop at the farther
end of the village.
Doctor Syn slept at the Court House, for he did not
intend to go to the vicarage any more at night. He had
a dread of that sitting-room of his. The horrible whir-
ring of a certain weapon boring a whole through the
shutter was still in his ears, and he could see a terrible
eye, magnified by the bottle glass of the casement,
looking in at him from the darkness. No, he had had
enough of that room, he told himself, and so he wel-
comed the squire's invitation to pass the night in the
244 DOCTOR SYN
Court House. Complaining of fatigue, he went to his
room, but the squire sat up late wondering how Imogene
was faring, and whether or no she would succeed in
rescuing his son, and how in the world she was setting
about it. About two o'clock in the morning he de-
tected a smell of burning. He went upstairs. The
smell seemed to be coming from the room assigned to
Doctor Syn, but there was only the firelight showing
under the door, so thinking that the Doctor was asleep,
he put his eye to the keyhole. But the Doctor was
not asleep. He was dressed in shirt and breeches, and
the sleeves of the shirt were turned up. He was stand-
ing by the fireplace with a red-hot poker in his hand,
looking at a seared mark upon his forearm.
"What the devil's he burning his arm for.^" thought
the squire. Doctor Syn then began to whistle under his
breath ; to whistle that old tune the words of which the
squire knew so well:
"Here's to the feet wot have walked the plank."
The squire remembered certain words of the captain:
Clegg's one tattoo — the picture of a man walking the plank,
executed badly upon his forearm. **Good God! Was it
possible.^ No! Ridiculous!"
An uncanny feeling came over the squire, and he went
downstairs quietly, without knocking at the Doctor's
door, as he had intended — went downstairs to the fire
THE CAPTAIN'S EXPERIMENT 245
in the library, relit his pipe, and began to think about
So when Sunday morning broke, two more strange
things had happened : Morgan Walters, for one thing,
had disappeared, parson's clothes and all, and Doctor
Syn, on going to the vicarage, discovered a new ugly
gash in the plaster of the wall, and he felt indeed thank-
ful that he had passed the night at the Court House.
The villagers had it announced to them at the morn-
ing service that, in order to undertake a great spiritual
mission to the blacks. Doctor Syn was leaving Dym-
church that very night; leaving after evensong by fish-
ing lugger which was timed to pick up a certain Spanish
trader bound for Jamaica and sailing upon the next day
from the port of Rye. So all that Sunday afternoon
the villagers, with much sorrow in their hearts at the
thought of losing their faithful shepherd and good friend,
prepared great beacons along the coast sea-wall as far
as Littlestone, in order to light and cheer their vicar on
his lonely way at night.
ADVENTURES IN WATCHBELL STREET
IMOGENE had got to Rye, and got there through
the devil of a bad sea. It was Sunday morning,
and by the time that the church bells were ring-
ing for matins she had safely beached her boat with
the help of two fishermen who knew her well. With
these two old salts she breakfasted. A rude meal it
was, served in a hut upon the shingle. Fish, bread, and
hot broth were things that she liked, and she did credit
to the fare, for she was hungry. She was also sorely in
need of sleep, and the old fellows tried to persuade her
to take a nap, but she would not hear of it, for time
pressed and she had much to do.
Before leaving Dymchurch, Mrs. Waggetts had pro-
vided her with a case of pistols and a sealed packet of
papers. This packet she now examined. It contained
two papers. It was fortunate, indeed, that Doctor Syn
had in his charity taught her to read . One of the papers
was a letter of instructions telling her the easiest way
of setting about the rescue of the squire's son, and she
knew the advice to be sound, for the signature bore the
great name of the Scarecrow. What's in a name, eh.^^
WATCHBELL STREET 247
More than Mr. Shakespeare gave credit for, because as
the name of Robespierre had carried terror and power
in France, and as the name of Napoleon was changed
to Boney for the frightening of children by tyrannical
nurses in England, so the title of the Scarecrow bore the
like qualities on Romney Marsh, for it meant that the
power of the smugglers was behind it, and would be used
to force obedience to the Scarecrow's behests. Imogene
knew, therefore, that her papers were of power, creden-
tials that would get her a hearing, and the rest must be
left to her own initiative, her wits, and her courage, and
to chance. Yes, if she carried out these orders to the
letter she was pretty confident that all would be well.
She read the letter of instructions till she had thoroughly
mastered its contents, and then burned it on the bucket
of live coals outside the hut. The other letter she kept,
for she had great need of that. It was addressed to
one Antony Whyllie, attorney-at-law, Watchbell Street,
Rye, Sussex, and read :
We find that we have further need of your help. The son
of our squire is in the hands of the Rye press gang. We
have accordingly dispatched to you one of our messengers, a
young girl upon whom no suspicions will fall. You must see
to it that you and the girl succeed in rescuing the young man.
If the girl returns without him, all we have to say to you is
that it will be the worse for you both; it will also be the last
of you both. We would have done well perhaps to send you
more help in this diflBcult venture, but this we cannot do, the
girl being the only one of our servants available. However,
248 DOCTOR SYN
you will find in her a young woman of great resource, and of
high courage, and those qualities, added to your well-known
ability and cunning in getting out of difficult corners, should
enable you to carry out our wishes for our own convenience
and for the saving of your life, which we presume affords you
With this useful letter tucked away in her blouse in
company with one of Mrs. Waggetts' pistols, Imogene,
after bidding farewell to the two fishermen, struck out
from the beach across the mile or so of flat country that
lies in front of the little rising town of Rye. It is a
fortified town, an ancient stronghold against whose
walls the sea at one time used to beat but has long since
receded. Her heart beat high as she looked up at the
great battlements and the quaint little houses that
clustered in all shapes and sizes around them, higher
and higher, until they reached the church tower, the
highest point of all.
She did not enter the town by the north gate, but
skirted the wall and ascended the long irregular step-
way that rises from the river wharf — a long ladder of
stone that climbs the surface of rock zigzag till you find
yourself at the top of the wall and standing upon the
cobbled roadway of Watchbell Street — a thoroughfare
made green with moss and with rank grass and rendered
vastly attractive by the picturesque houses that flank
its little pavements. To one of these little houses
WATCHBELL STREET 249
Imogene made her way, a little white house with a
quaint little white front door. She pulled the brass
chain, and in response to the bell a serving-maid an-
nounced that Mr. Whyllie was not then at home, hav-
ing gone to church with his wife. So perforce she had
to wait until the master and mistress returned from the
morning service. A quaint old lady was the wife of the
starchy old law^^er. She was dressed in highly flowered
brocades, with a curious bonnet, under which her round
little face shone out with much animation. A clever
little face it was, with a queer little pursed-up mouth,
and a tiny little nose with an upward tilt, and her eyes
were lively. It was the face of a clever eccentric.
Imogene saw them coming and gave them a profound
courtesy as they drew near to their front door.
"Lord love you. Mister Whyllie," the old lady ex-
claimed, "and what's the pretty wench bobbing at us
"It may be that she would speak to you, my dear,"
replied the lawyer to his wife.
"Then why doesn't she, sir?" answered the little
lady, raising her glasses and quizzing Imogene from head
to foot. "A handsome face she has. Mister Whyllie, a
handsome face indeed, refined yet rough, but then again
rough yet refined, take it how you will, but Lord love
you again, Mister Whyllie, she has positively the most
obnoxious clothes you could wish for to meet, and no
shoes, neither has she stockings, sir, but shapely legs,
250 DOCTOR SYN
sir, good legs indeed, though you need not embarrass
the child by quizzing them. Mister Whyllie."
Mr. Whyllie looked away awkwardly and, raising his
hat, inquired whether Imogene wished to speak to them.
"I have come to speak to you, sir, on most grave
"To do with one of my cases, I suppose," he answered,
by way of explanation, to his wife, for he had no wish
that she should suspect him of having any dealings with
such a handsome wench.
"Which case? " snapped the suspicious little wife.
"Well, really, now, I cannot say off hand," faltered
the lawyer. "Probably the Appledore land claims, but
I wouldn't swear to it, for it could quite equally be
something to do with the Canver squabble. In fact,
more likely to be, quite likely to be. Probably is, prob-
ably is. It might so very well be that, mightn't it,
"Yes, and it might not be that," returned his wife
with scorn. "Why don't you ask the girl if you want to
know, instead of standing there like the town idiot?
Being a lawyer, I naturally suppose you to have a
tongue in your head."
"I have, my dear," exclaimed the lawyer desper-
ately, "but dang it, ma'am, you will not let me wag it."
"You blasphemous horror!" screamed the lady,
sweeping past him into the house, for the serving-maid
was holding the front door open for them.
VVATCHBELL STREET 251
It was, by the way, a good thing for Antony WhylHe
that his house was situated in a quiet corner of Watch-
bell Street, a very good thing, for these sudden squalls
would repeatedly burst from his wife, regardless alto-
gether of publicity.
With a sigh the attorney begged Imogene to follow
him, and led the way into a little breakfast-room whose
latticed windows looked out upon the street. It was a
panelled room, but the panels were enamelled with
white paint, which gave to the place a most cheerful
aspect. Upon each panel hung a mahogany framed
silhouette portrait of some worthy relative and over
each panel was hung a brass spoon or brazen chestnut
roaster, each one polished like gold and affording a
bright contrast to the black portraits below, which
stood out so very severely against the white panelling.
There was in one corner of the room an embrasure filled
with shelves, the shelves in their turn being filled with
china. A round mahogany table, mahogany chairs,
and a heraldic mantelpiece made up the rest of the
furniture of this altogether delightful little room into
which Imogene followed the lawyer, who placed a chair
for her and shut the door. He then sat down by the
fire and awaited her pleasure to address him. Imogene
handed him the paper which had been prepared for her,
and as he began to read she drew the silver pistol from
her blouse and held it ready beneath a fold of her dress.
That the lawyer was greatly startled was only too plain,
252 DOCTOR SYN
for as he read the letter he turned a terribly pallid
colour in the face.
*'God bless me! but it's monstrous," he said, starting
up, with his eyes still on the paper. "Not content
with holding up my coach, commandeering my horses,
and making me look extremely ridiculous, they now
force me, a lawyer, an honest lawyer, to break those very
laws that I have sworn to defend. It's monstrous!
Utterly monstrous! What am I to do.^ What can I
do? My wife must know of this ! My wife must read
this letter," and accordingly he took a step toward the
door. But Imogene was too quick for him. With her
back against it and the pistol levelled at his head, the
lawyer was entirely nonplussed.
*'If you please, sir," she said, "I had orders that
you were not to leave the room, indeed that you were
not to leave my sight, until I was quite satisfied that
you would carry out the Scarecrow's orders."
" No, really ? " exclaimed the lawyer.
*'Yes, indeed, sir," repHed the girl, and then added
in a frightened voice: "If you disobey the Scarecrow,
it is just as well that I should shoot you here, for all the
chance you will have to get away from the penalty, and
for myself — well, the consequences would be as fatal
to me in either case, so you see if you do not help me by
obeying the letter you will not only be killing yourself
but me, too."
The lawyer looked blankly at Imogene, and then, re-
WATCHBELL STREET 253
treating from the close and unpleasant proximity of the
pistol, sank into his armchair.
"Put it down, girl ! Put that pistol down for heaven's
sake, for how can I think whilst I am being made a
Imogene lowered the weapon.
*'I really don't know what to say," went on the
wretched old man. "I am entirely fogged out of all
vision. Muddled, muddled — entirely muddled. I
wish you would let my wife come in. Oh, how I do
wish you would! \Miatever her faults may be, she is
really most excellent at thinking out difficulties of this
kind. In fact, I must confess that she does all my think-
ing work for me. Women sometimes, you know, have
most excellent brains — quick brains. They have, you
know. Really they have. Quick tongues, too. My
wife has. Oh, yes, really, you know, she's got both,
and the tongue part of her is developed to a most aston-
ishing degree. But give her her due. Give her her
due. So's her brain. So's her brain. A most clever
brain — most clever. Very quick; exceptionally alert.
As clever as a man, really she is. In fact, she's ab-
solutely cleverer than most. She's cleverer than me.
Oh, yes, she is. I confess it. I'm not conceited. Why,
she does all my work for me — so there you are. It
proves it, don't it? Writes all my speeches for me.
Really, you know, I am utterly useless without her.
She guides me — absolutely guides me, she does. "VMiy,
254 DOCTOR SYN
alone I'm hopeless. How on earth do you suppose that
I can get a young man out of the hands of the Rye press
gang? They're the most desperate of ruffians. The
most desperate set of good-for-noughts that you could
possibly wish to meet."
The handle of the door turned suddenly, but Imo-
gene's foot was not easily shifted.
"There's something in the way of the door, you clumsy
clodhopper!" called the voice of Mrs. Why Hie from out-
"I know there is, my love," faltered the husband, and
then to Imogene he said: "Oh, please let her come
in. She will be quiet, I'm sure." Then in a louder
tone : "You will be quiet, won't you, my love.^^ "
"Antony," called the voice of the spouse, "are you
addressing yourself to that handsome girl.^ Are you
calling her your love? " Then in a tone of doom : " Wait
till I get in!"
"Oh, dear, oh, dear, she's misunderstanding me
again. Don't let her come in now, for heaven's sake!"
But Imogene had already opened the door and in had
burst the little lady, and without heeding Imogene she
rushed across the room and administered with her mit-
tened hand a very resounding and sound box upon her
"Now perhaps you will behave yourself like a re-
spectable married man, like an old fogey that you are,
like everything in fact that you ought to be, but aren't
WATCHBELL STREET ^55
and never will be ! Will you behave yourseK now, you
truly terrible old man? "
"Certainly, my love," meekly replied the lawyer,
" but do look at this young lady."
'*Sakes alive!" she exclaimed when she did look at
Imogene, "for if she hasn't got a pistol in her hand,
you're no fool, Antony ! "
"She has got a pistol in her hand, my love, and I'll
not only be a fool, but a dead fool, if you don't find some
way out of the difficulty."
"And what is the difficulty, pray.'^" she asked, look-
ing from her terrified husband to the extraordinary girl.
"Oh, keep that pistol down, will you, my dear? for
there is no immediate danger of my eating you. Just
because I keep this fool of a husband of mine in his
place, you mustn't think me an utter virago."
"I am afraid it is me that you will be thinking a
virago," answered the girl, still feigning fear in her
voice, "but indeed I cannot help myseK. This un-
pleasant situation has been forced upon me."
But the old lady cut in again with: "I beseech you
both to cease making melodramatic idiots of yourselves
and tell me calmly and clearly what all this to-do is
about. Now, Antony, speak up and tell me all about
it. Come along, sir, make haste and tell me if you have
any ideas left in that silly head of yours. No doubt
you've been getting yourself into another pretty mess.
Isn't it enough for you that you go out, sir, a-driving
256 DOCTOR SYN
and get robbed of your coach and cattle? I should
really have thought that had been quite enough to keep
you out of mischief for a day or two. But no! Here
you are in trouble again. No doubt you have quite
forgotten the little lecture I read to you upon that oc-
"No, my dear, I cannot forget it, I assure you. It
is still very vivid to me, I promise you." For indeed
the little old man was still very conscious of a strange
feeling of slippers whenever he chanced to sit down.
*'0h, yes, you have forgotten it," went on the irre-
pressible lady. "You must have done so. Now tell
me what on earth have you been doing to make this
handsome girl behave in such a ridiculous fashion?"
With one hand still rubbing his boxed ear and with
the other holding out to his wife the terrible letter, the
lawyer explained as coherently as possible the whole
situation. He told the facts in a timid voice, for he
was greatly troubled as to how his wife would take it,
but her manner was the most shocking surprise to him,
it was so entirely different from anything he might have
expected, for when she heard about the press gang, she
clapped her little mittens together, and, laughing aloud,
urged her husband to go on with the tale which she
found the most refreshing she had heard for a month of
Sundays, and at the conclusion she gave way to the most
extraordinary capers of excitement, literally tripping
round and round the table, exclaiming that nothing
WATCHBELL STREET 257
could have been more fortunate. "La, sir," she cried,
"this little affair is truly a Godsend to me."
"In whatever way?" asked the amazed lawyer.
"\Miy, you disproportionate dullard! ^Mio is head
of the press gang, eh.^ Answer me that now, and you've
" Captain Tuff ton, isn't it, my love.^ " said the lawyer.
"Captain Tuffton, of course it is," said his wife.
"Captain Tuffton of a truth. That insufferable cox-
comb, that atrociously obnoxious scent-smelling prof-
ligate on whom I shall now be able to pay off old scores."
' * Old scores, my love ? Old scores .^ "
"La, sir, have you utterly forgotten how he snubbed
me at Lady Rivers's card party and again at his lord-
ship's water picnic? Has that slipped your memory,
too? How he got that appallingly painted besom of a
Parisian actress to imitate me to my face? Lord love
you, blister Whyllie, I have long sworn to get even with
that young idiot. WTiy, it was only this morning that
I was puzzling out a thousand schemes all through
church for his undoing, and here comes a direct answer
to my prayers, and you seem to have covered yourself
with the blues about it. "VMiy, Mister WTiyllie, here
is not only a chance to humble him to the dust, but a
most admirable occasion for his disgrace as well."
"I am truly glad to hear you say so," was the hus-
band's comment. "But I'm danged if I can see how
you are to set about it."
258 DOCTOR SYN
"Through the help of this girl here, stupid, and by
the bewitching charms of your handsome niece from
India, who has returned to England with her large
fortune inherited from the British East India Com-
The lawyer stared at his wife blankly, then genuine
concern for that lady's health getting the better of his
amazement, he said: "Can I fetch you your salts or
anything, my love? Your pounce box or your vinai-
grette? for I declare that you are wandering in your
mind, my poor dear. I never had a niece in all my
life, my love, and as for the British East India Company
— well, I have heard of it, of course, but little else in-
deed — very little else."
"Well, for to-day you will have to know a good deal
about it," said INIrs. Whyllie, "so you had better step
into the library and read up its history, and as to your
niece, your favourite niece, you will please do me the
favour of remembering that you possess her, too, sir.
Now, then. Mistress," addressing Imogene, "as soon as
this husband of mine has taken himself off, I'll tell you
your part in this affair." Taking the hint, the lawyer
beat a retreat to the library, gladly leaving the difficult
business in the hands of his wife. "Now, girl," she
went on when they were alone, "I suppose I shouldn't
be very far wrong if I surmised that you are head over
ears in love with this young man that the press gang
has taken, eh?"
WATCHBELL STREET 259
"Yes, I love him," said the girl quietly.
"Ah!" sighed the lady, "that's all right, and I sup-
pose I'm also not far out if I suppose that you would do
a good deal to save him from being shipped off to the
"I will do anything to save him from that danger,"
said the girl.
,"Good!" replied the old lady. "Then come up-
stairs with me."
Out of the room and across the little hall they went,
and so up the broad white staircase to the dearest little
bedroom imaginable, with a small four-posted bed with
chintz frills and hangings, and a dressing-table set with
bright silver ornaments.
"Now this room is for you, my dear, for my hand-
some niece from India, you understand.^ And now I
must ask you to change your clothes and get into some
pretty frock or other, and I must have you to know, my
dear, that I have been married twice, and by my first
marriage I must tell you, my dear, that I had a daugh-
ter, a really beautiful daughter. This was years ago,
of course, but she was just about your age as I remem-
ber her By the way, what is your age, my dear.^ "
"About sixteen, or I might be seventeen perhaps,"
"Ah, well, my daughter was just nineteen when she
died," went on the old lady. "She was all I had in the
world, for her father had died when she was quite a
260 DOCTOR SYN
child. Yes, she was all that I had to love for fifteen
years, and when she was taken I was so desperately
lonely that in a weak moment I married that foolish
Mister Whyllie, who is really very kind-hearted and
quite a good man, but, oh ! how dull ! Indeed, my dear,
he would never have been in the position he is now if I
hadn't pushed him there. You see, my dear, he hasn't
much brain. Why, he cannot boast a third of my
powder, but on the whole I am glad that I married him,
because he has given me such a lot to do helping him
deceive other people that he isn't a born fool. But I
really must not talk such a lot, for we have a deal to do,
my dear. But I must just explain this : I spent a good
deal of money upon pretty frocks for my daughter, and,
oh! how sweet she used to look in them. Well worth
the money it was, my dear, to see her look so pretty.
Now every one of these dresses I have kept, and kept
carefully, too. If the sweet child came back to me now,
she would find all her things as well cared for, as clean,
and as fresh as when she left me, for this was her room
(this house belongs to me, my dear, not to that fool
downstairs), and in these chests and in that oaken tall-
boy there I have kept everything that reminds me of my
darling. See!" And taking a key from a casket upon
the chimney-piece she unlocked the tall oak cupboard,
displaying to Imogene's gaze a sight to make her stand
entranced. The daintiest dresses were there, and
in the brass-bound coffer at the end of the bed the most
WATCHBELL STREET 261
costly laces and fine linen, and all kept sweet and pure
in a strong scent of lavender. From these sacred treas-
ures the old lady made selections, and by the time
that the gong had sounded for the three o'clock dinner,
instead of the handsome, dashing fisher-girl, there sat
before the mirror, having the finishing touches put to
her beautiful hair, done in the height of the fashion then
existing, a beautiful young girl in a gown of country
splendour, jewels glistening in her hair, and a diamond
brooch of great beauty clasped into a lace fichu which
set off her shapely neck to great advantage.
\\Tiile she had been dressing the girl the old lady had
with great tact got all of Imogene's history out of her,
at least as much of it as she knew, and just before they
stepped from the room, as she surveyed her protegee
with admiration, she held up her little quaint face and
requested Imogene to kiss her, which she did.
"And now, my dear, we will go down to dinner, and
the while we are eating I will tell you exactly what we
are to do, and," she added with enthusiasm, "if that
squire's son, whom I regard as a fortunate young fellow,
does not marry you — well, I'll horsewhip him myself,
aye, both him and his father, and adopt you as my own
daughter, for what a relief it would be to have you in
the house to look at, for you know, my dear, you are
vastly prettier than my foolish Mister "VMiyllie," saying
which she tripped lightly down the stairs followed by
the dazzling Imogene.
262 DOCTOR SYN
Had Imogene been in reality the old lady's daughter,
returned to her from the dim side of the veil, she could
not have been shown more kindly love and attention.
Even Mr. Whyllie got a happy time of it, for the little
old lady was in the best of tempers, entirely at peace
and light-hearted. Indeed at the conclusion of the
meal the lawyer found himself pushed into a comfort-
able chair with a small table at his side upon which stood
a fine old bottle of port, and to his utter astonishment
his wife standing near with a churchwarden pipe filled
with tobacco and a lighted paper spill all ready for him.
So he also began to bless the coming of his niece from
India, wishing that she had been invented sooner and
that .she was going to remain in the house to the end
of the proverbial chapter.
Then Mrs. Whyllie, over a dish of tea with Imogene,
unfolded her plan of campaign for the rescue of young
Denis, and the manner in which this plan was carried
out is set forth in a following chapter.
A MILITARY LADY-KILLER PREPARES FOR BATTLE
THAT insufferable coxcomb Captain Tuffton was
in the act of sprinkling his lace handkerchief
with the scent that old ]Mrs. Whyllie found so
atrociously obnoxious when his valet entered the room
with a note. The insufferable one went on with his
sprinkling and languidly inquired w^ho the note was
"I really cannot say, sir," returned the valet.
"Cannot say.^" repeated the insufferable, lifting his
pencilled eyebrows into the higher regions of astonish-
ment. "Indeed, my good Transome — and you call
yourself a valet, don't you now? It is not a bill, I trust,
strayed in upon the Sabbath out of cunning, for I have
not seen a bill these many years now, and the sight, I
feel convinced, might upset my stomach."
"I think, sir, that there is no valet in Europe so
quick to smell out a bill or so nimble at tearing them up
as your humble servant." Transome could be tre-
mendous upon occasions and he certainly was when he
added: "And under your livery, sir, I venture to sug-
gest that my practice of bill nosing has been unlimited."
264 DOCTOR SYN
"Now, come, my good Transome, you disrespectful
dog. I'll not have you chiding me, upon my soul I
won't, for I have a most damned head on me this fore-
noon. I generally do get a damned bad head on me o'
Sundays. All a-buzz, I declare, and it's those damned
exasperating church bells. I never met anything so
persistent in my life. They go on, they go on, and
there's no stopping them, now is there .^^ As plentiful as
bills are church bells and just as taxing to the nerves.
If ever I have to oblige the blasted Parliament by
sleeping in it, I shall endeavour to keep awake to vote
for the abolishment of church bells."
"And you might, sir, at the same time do away with
bills. It would be most convenient, wouldn't it, sir.^"
"Well, I suppose it would. If I ever do get in, which
I think extremely unlikely, for which I most heartily
thank my Maker, knowing how unutterably bored I
should become, but if ever I do get in, I will most cer-
tainly abolish bills and bells, and if there should be any
other little thing that you think might sensibly be
abolished, why, you must jog my memory, Transome,
and jog it hard, won't you, my dear fellow, for you know
what a memory I have? Damned bad, upon my soul
"Ah, sir," sighed the valet, "y^^ wi^l become a great
orator, a very great orator."
"I might, my dear fellow, I really might, although I
am positive that I shan't, because, you see, I know that
A MILITARY LADY-KILLER ^65
I shall go most damnably to sleep. I shan't be able to
"You must really make an effort, sir, to keep awake,
for the sake of your country, you really must, sir, for
you will make as great a statesman as you have a
soldier. You cannot help it, sir. Talent such as
yours, genius such as yours, is like murder, sir — it will
"No, I am a lazy good-for-nought, upon my soul I
am, and a statesman I shall never become, for even if
I do get pushed into a seat, what shall I lay on my sleep-
ing in it all the time.^ A pack o' dogs, sixteen fighting
cocks, and a blasted nag.^^ Will you take me? "
"Against what, sir.^^"
"Against nothing, you damned, disrespectful dog!
Upon my honour, against nothing but my sleeping.
What are you flashing that deuced silver tray about
for? It catches the light in a most exasperating man-
ner and causes the most acute suffering to my wretched
eyesight. Have you no feeling at all, my good Tran-
some, or have you lost it as well as your respect? Have
you never suffered the spasms of the damned? I de-
clare that my poor wretched head is executing positive
manoeuvres this morning. Musket drill and cavalry
charges are going on inside it the whole time. Oh, dear,
oh, dear ! How I wish you would open that note, instead
of flourishing it about again. You surely don't expect
me to open it, do you?"
2Q6 DOCTOR SYN
Accordingly the valet opened the letter and announced
to his master that it was a lady's handwriting.
"Then you had better give it to me," drawled the
captain with a resigned air, "for if you pry into the
contents of the poor thing's soul, it will be all over the
tow^n in an hour or so, and another woman's reputation
w^ill have disappeared. Wliy, Lord love us," he added
as he glanced at the note in question, "if it isn't from
that she-dragon herself, that most terrible and alarm-
ing Missus What'shername, Missus — Missus — oh, what
the devil is her name, eh? "
The valet suggested humbly that the lady in question
would most probably have signed her name at the end
of the letter.
"Oh, yes, of course, what a downright sane fellow
you are, to be sure. Now with all my brain power I
should never have thought of that. Perfectly ridicu-
lous of me, I know, but I really shouldn't have,
you know. Ah! I remember who the woman is now,
without looking. She's the wife of that perfectly
idiotic lawyer fellow who always fastens up his fat
stomach in a white waistcoat a cut or two too
small, but I'm blamed if I can remember even his
name, so you see we are not much nearer to it, are we
Again the valet repeated the brilliant suggestion of
looking to the end of the letter, and the master, having
graciously accepted his suggestion, announced to the
A MILITARY LADY-KILLER 267
valet that the mystery was solved at last and that the
name was nothing more nor less than Why Hie.
"And I wonder what the devil she can want with me,
The valet again made a brilliant suggestion that if
he would take the pains to read the letter he would in
all likelihood discover. So with a very bored air the
perfumed soldier read the note right through, and threw
it down upon the dressing-table with a great smile of
"She desires me to wait upon her this afternoon, my
good fellow. She wishes positively to let bygones be
bygones, and desires that I will bury all past differences
by partaking of an hour's hospitality from their house.
She also states that she has a wealthy niece but just
returned from India, and she desires that this same niece
may have the privilege of meeting the cream of the Rye
bachelors. My dear fellow, what a truly terrible age
we do live in! I have never heard of such daring and
unblushing matchmaking. Well, I suppose it is a thing
that we must expect in a Godforsaken little hole of a
place like this, where the available bachelors are few
indeed and possess not the smallest knowledge of how
to decently deport themselves, much less their clothes."
"Besides, sir," the valet ventured to remark, "the
red cloth of the military has a great attraction for match-
makers. It is always so very respectable, and it carries
a most remarkable tone with it, to be sure, sir."
268 DOCTOR SYN
"Well, I think I will go, at all events," went on the
insufferable, "and throw my eye over the niece, though
I really cannot expect much in the beauty line, for she
will probably be forty if she's a day, judging by the
ancient aunt. However, it will not be such bad sport
leading her on a bit. Have you ever practised the
amusing art of exciting elderly spinsters? If not, do,
my dear fellow, for it has its humour, and, really now,
humour is about all that is left to us nowadays, isn't it?
Hurry up, my good fellow ! No, you dolt, I am not on
duty. What do I want my sword for? Swords get
most damnably between your legs at the wrong mo-
ment. They really are positively useless lumber. I
cannot think why they are not abolished. Damned
clanky things, always in the wrong place, and tripping
one up when least on one's guard. I'll take my cane.
No, no, you positive Judas, the one with the scarlet
tassle of course. And my perfume box — no, no, that's
a snuffbox. I hate snuff. You know that I always
endeavour to leave it behind whenever possible, for it
has a most damnable habit of getting up my nose and
bringing on the most acute attacks of sneezing. Now
my hat and — no, perhaps not the cloak. A cloak, my
good fellow, has a most annoying habit of hiding the
curve of the w^aist. And I really do think that even my
most bitter detractors must own that my waist curve
is entirely and absolutely right. Now how are we, eh?
Has the most criticising valet in the world got anything
A MILITARY LADY-KILLER 269
to remedy, anything to suggest? I think we can do
Httle else with the cravat?"
"It would be passed by Mister Brummel himself."
"Then we are ready, are we? Au re voir, therefore,
my estimable friend! Keep your spirits up, and don't
forge my name to a check in my absence ! " With which
piece of jocular raillery Captain Tuffton, the military
lady-killer, swaggered out of the room, swinging the
red-tasselled cane, and humming in well-modulated
tenor a Spanish love song in very bad Spanish; but that
didn't matter, as nobody was any the wiser, and liter-
ally tripping into Watchbell Street, he approached the
little white front door behind which were waiting three
good people, preparing a most superb ambuscade for
the insufferable captain to walk into, an ambuscade
that was going to very effectually put an end to the
military swagger of this scent-breathing officer. He
rang the bell languidly, little thinking it a tocsin of
battle and of sudden death.
SCYLLA OR CHARYBDIS
CAPTAIN TUFFTON could certainly not com-
plain of his reception, for the lawyer was posi-
tively nervous in his endeavours to please,
while Mrs. ^Vhyllie, in her anxiety to let bygones be
bygones, positively basked in the sunshine of his glory,
and as to Imogene — well, she at least had the speedy
satisfaction of knowing that her appearance had caused
havoc in the heart of the lady-killer.
"And so you are back from India.^" he said to the
"So it appears, sir," answered Imogene, with a roguish
"Ah, yes. Of course it is only too obvious," an-
swered the military one, "for here you are, aren't you
now? It's a beastly place out there, I suppose, now
isn't it.f^ I never could abide elephants or snakes ! "
"La, sir, then you must not venture there, for they
abound most vastly," answered Imogene. Mrs. Whyl-
lie by this time was tittering behind her fan, and old
Whyllie looked greatly troubled at the whole proceed-
SCYLLA OR CHARYBDIS 271
"A devilish climate, too, for the complexion, isn't it? "
stroking his smooth, weak chin.
"La, sir, indeed if you say that, I must take it as a
poor compliment to myself."
*'Do not mistake me, I beg," urged the officer, "for
in your case the Indian sun has been most gentle. He
has kissed you with a light hand — er — a light mouth,
indeed. Lucky sun, lucky sun ! "
"You are being vastly gentle with my complexion,
sir, but I perceive you to be a most accomplished cour-
tier and a turner of beautiful compliments."
"Madam, I speak from my heart, I assure you."
"Whoever heard of Captain Tuffton possessing one.'^"
tittered Mrs. \Yhyllie.
"You wrong me. Madam, I assure you," declared
the glorious one with conviction. "My poor heart is
too large for my scarlet tunic, I assure you. It was an
empty shell this morning, I confess, but the beauty of
your accomplished niece, which it has been drinking in
with rapture, has filled that poor receptacle and made
it swell and stretch with the very throes of deep emo-
"La, sir, how prettily you turn the English tongue!
How the Indians would adore you, sir!"
"Pooh-pooh, indeed," said Mrs. Whyllie with a great
show of decorum, "you must not take for gospel what
the captain says. He is a very prince of dandies; in-
deed, he is second only to the Regent and Mister Brum-
272 DOCTOR SYN
mel in all manners of deportment. I never trust dan-
dies myself entirely."
"Oh, Madam, pray, pray, make me the exception."
"No, Captain, for you are not only a dandy, but a
soldier, and soldiers are another class I distrust."
"Ah, Madam," lisped the officer, "you are cruelty
"I cannot help it, my dear sir. Soldiers are not to
be trusted, and well you know it. They walk about
with gay apparel, appearing the most gentle of crea-
tures, but we know how dangerous they are, aye, dan-
gerous both morally and physically, w^ith their minds
full of most terrible conquests planned against poor
women, and their pockets stuffed to the bursting point
with explosives and weapons."
" La, Madam, you are mistaken, upon my soul. Take
my case now as an example : I came here, I confess it,
with thoughts of conquest in my mind, but I am con-
quered, I am vanquished, I am beaten most damnably
myself. The eyes of your niece have sown my very
foundations with salt."
"Indeed, sir, that's bitter!" exclaimed Imogene,
"And as to the belief that soldiers — officers, that is —
are loaded with explosives and weapons, why, pish!
Madam, it is a fallacy, I assure you. We leave explo-
sives to the sergeants and our weapons to our orderlies.
It is not only most damnably dangerous to carry fire-
SCYLLA OR CHAEYBDIS 273
arms on our person, but it is most damnably damaging
to the set of one's clothes. Indeed, I declare that the
cream of the army would retire if carrying weapons was
"And you mean to say, sir, that you, a captain, walk
abroad in your uniform unarmed.^ "
"And with the place infested with French spies.^"
added Imogene, shuddering.
"WTiy, yes. Madam, I assure you it is so. ^\lien I
w^lk abroad I rely entirely for my personal safety upon
my tasselled cane, and I venture to suggest that I could
put up a very pretty fight with it."
"But it would not be of much service against pistols,
would it. Captain.^" asked Mrs. Whyllie.
"Perhaps not. Madam, but who would want to put a
pistol to my head?"
"You must have many enemies surely, Captain,"
suggested the old lady, "for are you not in command
of the press gang.^"
"Yes, and a poor job it is for an army officer," said
the soldier. "I take no interest in the sea at all, and
the authorities are endeavouring to transfer me to the
"The press gang does most cruel work, too, I hear,"
went on the old lady.
" Well, you see, that really cannot be helped. Madam.
War with France is a certain thing, and if our navy is
not able to smash Napoleon on the sea — well, we shall
274 DOCTOR SYN
not be able to sing *Ilule Britannia' any more, now shall
we? And if young men won't join the navy — well, we
have to make 'em, you see, and that's what the press
gang's for, don't you know? If you cannot get a thing
done for love, you know, you must get it done by force.
Do you follow me?"
"Perfectly, my dear Captain," said Mrs. \Miyllie.
"That little maxim of yours is most admirable, I de-
clare, and we shall put it to most instant practice."
Thereupon the old lady got up from her chair and
pointed a pistol at the captain's head. "And it's most
fortunate, I vow, that your tasselled cane is reposing
safely in the hall."
"^Vhat does this mean. Madam?" spluttered the
captain. "Are you joking? "
"My dear niece," said the old lady, "this admirable
captain really asks us if we are joking."
The captain turned his terrified eyes to Imogene
only to discover that she also held a pistol at his head.
"What is the cause of this terrible behaviour?" he
"You are going to pay your debts, my dear Captain,"
said the old lady. "To pay your debts in full. You
have owed me apologies for a long time which you have
taken no pains to tender to me. You made me a
laughing-stock in public — well, I am now going to re-
turn the compliment, and heaven shield you from the
scorn of your brother officers, the anger of your supe-
SCYLLA OR CHARYBDIS 275
riors, and the scathing and greedy wits of the neighbour-
hood. I say, heaven shield, for I shan't. Antony, my
dear, get the paper out of the drawer in the desk there."
Old Mr. Wliyllie moved behind the captain and went
to the desk. The captain moved toward Mrs. Whyllie.
"Stay where you are!" she ordered. "If you move
again I shall fire."
" A likely tale ! " he spluttered. " You wouldn't dare ! "
"I can easily contradict you on that score," quickly
remarked the old lady, and she pulled the trigger. The
captain fell back upon the sofa, his pale face blackened
with powder, his eyes blinded with smoke, and a sharp,
pricking sensation in his left shoulder.
" My God ! " he cried. " You've hit me."
"And shall do so again if you give me any more trou-
ble," said the old lady, "and," she added, "next time
I may aim to kill," and she took up another pistol from
the mantelpiece. "You see, sir, we were quite prepared
Then the lawyer set a table before him with pen and
ink and requested him to sign a certain paper that he
had already drawn up. This paper was addressed to
the petty officer in charge of the press gang, and com-
manded that the young man of the name of Denis
Cobtree should be driven immediately in a hired coach
to the house of Antony Wliyllie, attorney-at-law, AYatch-
bell Street, who would give them further commands.
To this paper Captain Tuffton signed his name. In-
276 DOCTOR SYN
deed, he could do nothing else; and a servant was sent
off to the castle to deliver it.
In half an hour or so the noise of a coach was heard
rattling over the cobblestones, and Antony WTiyllie
left the room to see if Denis was safe. In the mean-
time the captain had signed another paper declaring
Denis free to return over the Sussex border into Kent,
and this paper having been shown to the petty officer
and a guinea piece having been put into his dirty hand
by the lawyer himself, the seadog saluted respectfully
and swung off down Watchbell Street whistling a tune.
The lawyer explained the situation hurriedly to Denis
and then went in to take Imogene's place as guard over
the wretched soldier. But the captain was suffering
acute spasms in his left shoulder, and this being his
first experience of bullet wounds, he was nearly uncon-
scious at the horror of it. So Mrs. Why Hie was able
for a moment to lower the pistol in order to kiss Imo-
gene, and having recommended her to Denis's care,
bade them urge the coach quickly out of Rye and into
"Shall I change my clothes first or send them back
to you.^ " asked Imogene.
"Neither, my love," answered the old lady, again
levelling the pistol at Captain Tuffton's head; "for
when we have packed this ridiculous soldier back to his
place in an hour or so, I am going to see to it that Mr.
Whyllie draws up all legal forms for adopting you as
SCYLLA OR CHARYBDIS 277
our daughter — that is, providing of course you raise
no objection — but I shall do myself the honour of call-
ing upon Sir Antony Cobtree himself within the week,"
saying which she dismissed the young people to the
coach, and when the driver had received a handsome
fee from the lawyer and been promised a further one if
he made good pace for Dymchurch, he touched up the
horses, and with great rattling clattered the cumber-
some coach through the great gate of Rye and so out
on the smooth highroad, where the long whip cracked
and the wheels began to spin. But for a whole hour
the wretched captain stayed a prisoner in the white
house until he beseeched the old lady to let him go
home and have the surgeon dress his wound. So at
last she consented, and another coach having been
hired, he was lifted into it and in a few moments reached
his rooms, where the most criticising valet in the world
pulled from his shoulder a steel pin. With the excep-
tion of this deep pin prick, there was no mark of a
wound, as indeed why should there have been? for Mrs.
"SMiyllie had fired only a blank charge, and the old
lawyer, according to careful instructions, had got be-
hind the captain and dug in the pin at the crucial mo-
And while the valet administered brandy as a restor-
ative, a boy and a girl sat hand in hand in a great old
coach which swayed and jolted as they dashed along
the Romney Road toward Dymchurch. Useless, indeed.
278 DOCTOR SYN
to follow that coach from Rye, for the necks of the four
horses were stretched in tensioned gallop, the harness
pulling near to breaking-point, the wheels tearing round
the axles, and the busy driver's long whip cracking like
pistol shots above the pounding thunder of the swift-
HOLDING THE PULPIT
NEVER was there such a great congregation as
upon that night in the old dim church. The
news that Doctor Syn was to leave immedi-
ately after the service brought everybody to bid him
farewell, and Mipps had great difficulty in packing them
all into the old pews. In fact, full half an hour before
the vestry prayer the pews were all choked, and late-
comers began to perch themselves upon the high oak
backs. Benches were even arranged across the aisles,
and boys climbed up on to the window ledges; in fact,
every available place in the church capable or not ca-
pable of supporting a human being was utilized. Jerry
Jerk perched himself without ceremony upon the font
cover, much to the indignation of the sexton, who in his
capacity of verger tried to signal him off. But Jerk,
knowing well that Mipps could not get at him over the
benches that crowded the aisles, remained where he was.
Right under the pulpit, immediately opposite to the
squire's pew, sat Captain Collyer, and two pews behind
that some half-dozen sailors fumbled with hymn-books
under the large eyes of the bo'sun. Once Captain
280 DOCTOR SYN
Collyer turned round to see if his men were there, and
Jerk noticed the corner of a blue paper bulging from his
pocket. Doctor Syn conducted the service from the
top box of the three-decker pulpit, with Mipps below
him carefully following the printing on the great Prayer
Book with a dirty thumb running backward and for-
ward. Now Doctor Syn, although appearing to the
congregation to be wrapped up heart and soul in the
farewell service, had found occasion to notice two things:
the blue paper in the captain's pocket and the swinging
lanterns of men outside the church. He alone could
see them, for from the great height of the three-decker
he had a good view through the window, and the flashes
from the lanterns had revealed one important thing:
the red coats of soldiers. The church was surrounded
with soldiers, every door was barred and every window
watched; and upon the face of Captain Collyer ap-
peared a look of triumph. But none of these things
hindered the service, which continued with great spirit.
The sea salts in the choir bellowed the hymns louder
than usual, although there was no schoolmaster to start
them off on the fiddle. The hymn before the sermon was
just finishing. Doctor Syn closed the great Bible upon
the red cushion and placed it upon the shelf below. The
"Amen" was reached and the congregation clattered
back into their seats. Then the vicar leaned over the
pulpit side and addressed his flock for the last time:
"My friends," he began, "this is surely no occasion
HOLDING THE PULPIT 281
for a theological discourse. I am leaving you to-night,
leaving you suddenly, because partings are such cruel
things that I would not linger over them, and although
I have for some months contemplated this sad step, I
have been at pains to keep it to myself lest you should
misunderstand my motive and look upon my leaving
as a desertion. As I announced this morning, I am
going on a mission to far-off lands, a mission to our poor
ignorant black brethren. There are so few who can
give up all to this work. Most of my colleagues are
bound to their benefices by the ties of home. Being a
single old fellow, with no relatives dependent upon my
income, I am able to volunteer my services for this
grand work, well know^ing that my place here can be
filled by a better man than myself. This it is that
makes me willing to tear myself away from the bonds of
affection that tie me to Dymchurch, though I well know
that those bonds can never be loosed from my heart; and
I trust that whatever my failings may have been, you
will sometimes think of one who has loved you all. Upon
an occasion of this sort perhaps it is expected that I
should sum up the poor results of my work among you.
This I really cannot bring myself to do. AMiat I have
done, you have all seen and know, little and worthless
though it be. As your parson I have tried to do my
duty, and I fear have in great measure failed. Let me,
therefore, leave that branch of my work to rest in silence,
and speak of something else, which will be of vital
282 DOCTOR SYN
interest to you all. There was much poverty and
wretchedness when I first came among you. This,
I believe, has been greatly alleviated, and the man who
really brought that about was not your vicar, as you all
so kindly and fondly imagine. No; that has been the
work of another man — a man of whom I would speak,
for whom I would appeal to your generosity. For you
all know that one man has risked his life and reputation
in organizing a great scheme of benefit to the Marsh-
men. You all know of what scheme I am speaking; but
few if any guess to w^hat man you are indebted. There
w^as a man hanged at Rye whose name was Clegg."
" Clegg was never hanged at Rye ! "
The great Bible skimmed over the side of the pulpit
and struck the captain's hand before he could utter an-
other word, and a flint-locked pistol clattered over the
front of the pew and fell upon the stone floor. So
startlingly had this happened that the congregation
merely heard the interruption and the rapid tear of the
Bible through the air, and lo! there was Doctor Syn
holding the pulpit with a long brass-bound pistol in
each hand. And there was also Mr. Mipps, the sexton,
leaning over his desk and pointing a great blunderbuss
at the captain's head.
"I must beg of you, sir, not to take the words of
God out of my mouth!" The Doctor spoke the words
in just the same tones as the rest of his sermon, and
continued as if nothing had happened — continued his
HOLDING THE PULPIT 283
sermon in mild tones, with two pistols grinning over
the red-cushioned desk.
"There was a man hanged at Rye. His name was
Clegg. So it has always been believed. But the real
Clegg was never hanged at Rye. Clegg had the laugh
on the authorities all his life, and certainly he had the
laugh on them at his hanging, for he was never hanged
at all, although he was present to see the affair con-
ducted all properly. Oh, yes, indeed, he was present
to read the prayers over the man whom he had got to
take his place. You see, my dear brethren, it was all
so ridiculously simple. The man condemned for the
Rye tavern murder was one of Clegg's own men, and,
most fortunate for Clegg, the rascal had a daughter
that he loved — that everybody loved. This girl would
have no guardian had the murderer betrayed his great
captain, and this is how the captain saved his life:
Visiting the condemned man in prison, he bargained
for his life. The murderer confessed to the parson that
he was Clegg, and so got a public hanging, quite a big
affair, in fact, a funeral of which a lord might well have
been proud. So you see he got well paid for taking
Clegg's adventures upon his shoulders. He received
the curses of the military and the admiration of the
countryside as he marched with the redcoats to the
scaffold, and the joke of it all was that the solemn-eyed
parson who was exhorting the poor fellow to repentance
till his body jangled in the chains was hardly able to
284 DOCTOR SYN
keep back his laughter, for the idea of Clegg, the no-
torious pirate, being a country parson had of course not
occurred to any one. Funny it certainly was, although
there were only two to enjoy the joke — myself and my
friend on the gallows. Funny the end was then; fun-
nier the end will be now; for our good friend Captain
Collyer, having come down here to discover the ring-
leader of the wool-running organization, brought with
him a man, a murderous rascal, who was marooned
upon a coral reef many years ago. I marooned that
man for sedition and mutiny. He was a Cuban priest
and was a dangerous practiser of black magic, and as I
didn't choose to have such satan's tricks aboard my
God-fearing pirate vessel, the Imogene, I left him on the
reef. How the man got off the reef I know not; for it
was a thing impossible to do. But get off he did, and
it must have been by some hell's trick that he managed
it. To get him caught I forced Rash, our esteemed
schoolmaster, whom you all admire for his great work
among the smugglers here, to commit murder upon
Sennacherib Pepper, who was seeing more upon the
Marsh than was altogether healthy for him; but when
my faithful murderer began thinking of King's evi-
dence, I had to see that he was removed by the Marsh
witches and done to death. I like you to know all this,
because I am something of a vain fellow, and I never
can abide people having the laugh on me, and so, my
dear friend Captain Collyer, oblige me like a good-
HOLDING THE PULPIT 285
natured and sensible fellow by handing over that blue
paper that is sticking out of your pocket with my death
" No. I'll be damned "
*'If you don't there will be such a nasty mess for
IVIister Mipps to clear up in that pew!"
A man stepped from the choir and snatched the blue
paper from the captain and handed it to Doctor Syn.
"Thank you, my man!" said the cleric, taking it.
**And now for my farewell. You are all of you in this
church in eminent peril. The place is surrounded by
redcoats who are in danger of being badly hurt when
the fight comes, and all in this church are in danger of
me being caught by the redcoats, and being obliged to
turn King's evidence against you all to save my life.
I should be very loath to do such a dirty thing, so you
had better persuade our friend the captain to let me go
Doctor Syn deliberately thrust both his pistols be-
neath his black gown; at the same moment the captain
sprang at the pulpit, but was knocked over with a
violent blow from the brass candlestick that Doctor
Syn had snatched from the pulpit socket. The sailors
clambered out of their pew, but were met with a volley
of hymn-books and hassocks from the sea salts in the
choir. One or two pistols flashed, and in a second the
entire church was a writhing, fighting mass of men.
The women screamed and were trodden down as the
286 DOCTOR SYN
redcoats entered the west door and forced their way
over the upturned benches in the aisles. Above the
congregation flew a shower of missiles — hassocks, books,
hats, sticks, anything that could be grabbed went flying
through the air, and Syn leaped the pulpit and fell upon
the writhing mass that was fighting below.
It took the redcoats a quarter of an hour to restore
order in the church, and then Mister Mipps and Doctor
Syn had disappeared.
But although Collyer was very badly cut and bruised,
he was confident, for the church had been surrounded,
so he knew that the miscreants couldn't escape. Pres-
ently a cry from the vestry rang out: "Help!" It
was Mipps's voice. Collyer rushed the door, followed
by some of his men. The remaining redcoats who had
been watching the church were ordered inside to help
in the arrest. These men cried out that they had seen
the Doctor in the vestry from the window, and they
were one and all eager to be in at the death.
Within the vestry stood Sexton Mipps with a blun-
derbuss at the head of Doctor Syn, who was crouched
in terror at the old oak table.
"There he is! Seize him! The devil! The mur-
derer ! Seize him ! ' '
"So you've turned King's evidence after all, have
you. Mister Sexton? "
But Mipps only cried again: "There he is! Ain't
none of you a-goin' to take him? "
HOLDING THE PULPIT 287
Captain Collyer obeyed the sexton and cried : " Clegg,
I arrest you in the name of the King!" and coming for-
ward he laid his hand upon the Doctor's shoulder. But
the Doctor did not move. The captain shook him,
but he did not move. Then the captain put his hand
upon the white hair and the hand was covered with some-
"My God!" he cried. "He's nailed to the table.
It's not Syn! It's Morgan Walters. Wliere's that
But the sexton had disappeared, and Clegg had gone,
and there, with three nails driven, one through the neck
and one through each arm, driven right through into
the table, lay the theatrical figure of Morgan Walters,
in all points resembHng Doctor Syn.
THE DEAD MAN's THROTTLE
THEN the redcoats got a bad time, for a great
fight was put up by the Dymchurch men.
Doctor Syn's popularity had gone up at a
bound. He had gauged his audience to a nicety, and
had he declared himself to be the Prince Regent he
couldn't have bettered his position, for around Clegg's
name a million romances had been spun, but none so
romantic, so daring, so altogether impertinent as this
last announcement that he was the preacher Syn. That
the greatest pirate hung should have unhanged himself
upon the pulpit of a three-decker was indeed a colossal
piece of impudence, and calculated to appeal to the
innermost hearts of the Dymchurch folk, who at this
period of history knew more about wool-running, demon
riders, and Calais customs than anything else. Add to
this the admiration that they had always borne toward
Clegg, only surpassed by their dread of him, and couple
this with Doctor Syn's popularity and the Scarecrow's
ingenuity, not forgetting the remark in the sermon about
King's evidence, and the cleric's escape was assured.
For Doctor Syn could give evidence to hang them all,
THE DEAD MAN'S THROTTLE 289
and although they thought that he was sportsman
enough to hold his tongue if it came to a crisis, they
didn't like to risk it; for Clegg had proved himself true
enough to his friends but utterly criminal toward his
foes. For all these reasons they put up a fight, and a
sharp fight it was.
There was a rumour that Doctor Syn and Sexton
Mipps had taken cover in one of the smugglers' retreats
at the Ship Inn, and although Mrs. Waggetts innocently
protested against it, the order was given to ransack the
place from cellar to attic. But it was none so easy
to ransack such a rambling old house, defended as it
was by desperate ruflSans fighting for the secrets of their
livelihood, for since Doctor Syn had hidden the wool-
running scheme under his black gown money had flowed
freely among the Dymchurch men. But the blood of
the redcoats was up, for three of their number had been
shot dead, and several had been badly wounded, so
when they eventually got possession of the inn they
showed IVIrs. Waggetts' property no mercy. And for
Mrs. Waggetts herseK — well, the rage of the redcoats
was so uncontrolled when the old house was found
stacked with smuggled goods that they cursed her for
an old witch and hanged her from the old Ship sign
above the door.
Meantime a lugger was trying to catch the breeze,
trying to get out of the great bay to the open sea; but
the wind had failed, so certain men aboard got out the
290 DOCTOR SYN
oars and pulled away with a will. Then some fool lit
one of the piled beacons on the shore. Others were
lighted, and the flames shot up along the wall to Little-
stone, and the King's men managed to launch the pre-
venter's cutter and chase the lugger. The men routed
out of the Ship Inn crowded to the wall to hinder the
King's men, but Collyer was in command and bravely
kept his men's heads for them amid a hail of bullets
from the sea-wall.
The cutter was not long in swinging alongside the
lugger, and Collyer clambered aboard, with three or
four of his men armed with pistols and cutlasses. The
men on the lugger had stopped rowing when they saw
that they had no chance of escape, and as soon as the
captain hailed them they surrendered sullenly.
The men at the oars were ordered into the cutter, and
then the captain turned to the cabin. Outside the
door sat Sexton Mipps with his blunderbuss lying across
his knees, ready to hand. But he appeared quite calm,
and was enjoying his short clay pipe.
"Good evening. Captain," he said. "Coming out
fishing with us, are you? "
"Lay that blunderbuss of yours on the deck," an-
swered the captain, "and step aboard the cutter after
"I should like to know what you be," said Mr. Mipps,
"to order a respectable parish sexton about."
"You won't make it easier for yourself, my man, by
THE DEAD MAX'S THROTTLE 291
lagging back," said the captain. " I know quite enough
about you to send you to the gibbet."
"May I ask what.^" replied the sexton, puffing away
at his pipe.
**I've been having a look at that coffin shop of yours,
and I've seen enough there to get you a free rope from
the government; so come along and make the best of a
Mipps pulled desperately at his short clay pipe and
sent over his lap a heavy cloud of tobacco smoke. Under
cover of this his fingers were stealing toward the trigger
of the blunderbuss. He was calculating his chances,
for there were three pistols pointing at him from the
King's men. If he was shot, he meant to take the
captain with him.
"There's one chance of saving your dirty carcass,"
went on the captain, not noticing those crafty fingers
"What's that?" said the sexton behind the blue cur-
tain of tobacco smoke.
"There's one man I'd a deal sooner hang than you,
and that's Clegg. Tell me where Doctor Syn is and
I'll give you twenty -four hours to make yourself scarce."
"Thank you kindly," went on the sexton, "but I
ain't no wish to make myself scarce. I'm quite happy
where I am, and if you've a fancy to make yourself
scarce, I'll be happier still."
Just then there was a noise below of singing, and
292 DOCTOR SYN
something splashed into the sea. The captain looked
over the side and saw a black bottle. It was not a dark
night, and he could see it floating away toward the
shore, where the beacons were alight.
"He's in that cabin!" the captain shouted. "He
threw that rum bottle out of the stern hole."
"If he is there," replied the sexton, "I wouldn't ad-
vise you nor any other of my friends to go in, for it'll be
the worse for you if you do. Hark! he's in song to-
night, and when Clegg's in song, you can take it from
me that he's in a devil of a mood."
From the cabin came that horrible song:
" Here's to the feet wot have walked the plank.
Yo ho! for the dead man's throttle."
And then words were uttered in a drunken voice, the
voice of a drunkard in terror.
"It's the drink! There's nobody there, there's no-
body in this cabin, I say. It's a shadow, nothing but a
shadow. He couldn't have got here. It's a shadow
risen from hell to mock me, I say. He couldn't have
got off that reef. There was nothing for him to live
upon but the filthy body of the yellow cook, and would
even the foulest man eat food not fit for sharks.^ There
was nothing else. No vegetation, simply a thin coral
reef. I can hear the surf now breaking into the lagoon.
There, listen! There, hark at him cursing! It's no
THE DEAD MAN'S THROTTLE 293
use, tell him. The crew's afraid of me. They're only
muttering, they daren't speak again, for I've settled
with Pete, the yellow cook — broke his spine in with a
capstan bar. How it did get wedged between the bone.
I tore it out with my nails. There goes Pete's body
over the side into the clear water. Ugh! what a hor-
rible splash it makes! The water doesn't seem to hide
him much! There's his ugly yellow face still! Why
don't the water hide him? It hides lots of other ugly
things, damn it ! The breeze, thank God ! We are slip-
ping away, faster, faster. The coral reef is sinking into
the deep sea. The marooned scoundrel, the damned
mulatto, can't throw a harpoon from there, he can't!
He's dead already! Cram on the canvas, every inch!
Get up aloft! Won't take my orders, eh? Get up!
Get up! I'll teach you who Clegg is ! Ah! look there!
There's something following the ship. WTiat a horrible
face it has! My God, it's yellow! Horrible! It's
coming out of the sea! It's creeping over the stern,
along the deck ! It's coming to the roundhouse ! Lock
the door! No! No! It's here inside the roundhouse.
You've locked it in with me, you fools ! You cowards,
it's following me round! It isn't him! It isn't him!
It's a shadow — a damned silly shadow. WTiere's the
rum? Mipps, you damned little pirate, where have
you hid the rum?
"Here's to the corpses floating round in the tank;
And the dead man's teeth in the bottle."
294 DOCTOR SYN
The song turned into a scream of agony. There was
the noise of a soul-sickening thud, and something leaped
through the cabin door, tumbling Mr. Mipps all over
in a heap. The three pistols of the King's men flashed,
another scream tore the air, and a tall figure sprang
high into the night and disappeared into the sea.
"It's Clegg! It's Syn!" shouted one of the King's
**And we've shot that damned little sexton, too!"
shouted another, for Mipps lay flat on his face, with his
fingers outstretched upon the deck.
Collyer rushed into the cabin, while the men reloaded
a pistol in case the head of Doctor Syn should rise from
"Bring a light!" shouted the captain.
The cabin was small, but larger than might have been
expected from the size of the craft. When a lantern
had been passed through, it showed a little room whose
walls were the sides of the boat. On one side was a
heavy little flap table, fixed into the ribs of the boat
with rusty iron sockets. Upon this table, flat down on
his face, indeed in the very position that Morgan Wal-
ters had appeared upon the vestry table, was Doctor
"My God!" cried the captain. "Look at the face!"
The dead face pressed against the table was indeed a
face of horror, for driven right through the neck was
Clegg's harpoon, and the hideous grin on the Doctor's
THE DEAD MAN'S THROTTLE 295
usually benign old face was entirely abominable to look
"It's Doctor Syn! It's Clegg!" ejaculated the three
seamen who had entered the cabin. "Then, in God's
name, what did we shoot out there. ^ "
"The mulatto," said the captain. "He has been
here before us."
"Then we shot the mulatto, sir!" exclaimed one of
"You shot the sexton," cut in the captain, "but for
the mulatto — well, it's my honest opinion that — but
there, that sort of thing is beyond a sailor. Here you ! "
he addressed one of the sailors, "just get a piece of sail-
cloth from the deck and we'll stitch this body up, and
you two help me get this damned harpoon from his
neck. There's a ballast shot in our boat that'll do
for his feet, for I'm not going to take this body ashore.
It might cause a fresh outcry among the people. Be-
sides, now that old Clegg's log is entered, I've no desire
to hang his body in chains. It's a barbarous custom.
If ever a man deserved to be buried at sea, Clegg did, for
rascal though he was, he was a wonderful seaman, so a
seaman's grave he shall have, or I'm no sailor."
Suddenly a cry arose from the man who had gone
from the cabin in search of the sailcloth.
" What is it.^ " called the captain.
"My God!" cried the sailor, dashing back into the
cabin, "the sexton ! the sexton ! "
296 DOCTOR SYN
"What of him? " demanded the captain.
"He's not dead ! He's not dead ! " yelled the man.
"All right! all right!" said the captain. "Will he
live to hang?"
"But he ain't there at all, sir! " shouted the sailor.
"Not there? " cried the captain.
"No, sir, he's gone, and there's no signs of him any-
So they had not even shot the sexton, for as soon as
the captain came out of the cabin door he saw that the
body had gone, true enough. Mipps, indeed, who had
not been touched by the three bullets, had bided an op-
portunity and let himself quietly over the side away
from the cutter, and struck out through the water with
a stronger and quicker stroke than any one would credit
such an ancient man to possess.
They searched for him to no avail, and they searched
for the mulatto's body to no avail, and the horrible
corpse of Doctor Syn was buried that night at sea by the
captain's orders, sewn up in a sail with a shot at his
feet, so his song came back to him for an epitaph:
"A pound of gunshot was tied to his feet;
And a ragged bit of sail was his winding sheet."
THE next day war was again declared with France
and every available man was pressed into ser-
vice. Collyer was recalled from DymcKurch
with all his men, and he was one of the first to fall under
Nelson's command. His death was the saving of many
necks in Dymchurch, for he had found out about every-
thing. The demon riders and their steeds he could have
marked down by day, and he had discovered how they
transformed themselves, for in Mipps's coffin shop he
had come across a recipe for the preservation of the sand
phosphorous with which the sexton used to daub the
riders and horses. The object of these men was to scare
people away from the Marsh when the pack-ponies were
out bringing the wool from the Marsh farms to the coast
— people who were not in the wool-running scheme.
With the death of Doctor Syn came the death of the
wool-running. Sir Antony discovered in the vicarage
much money stored away, and a sea-chest full of great
valuables which Clegg had evidently amassed in the
Southern Seas. A bar of gold and a wonderful ruby were
sufficient in themselves to create a comfortable fortune,
298 DOCTOR SYN
and as Doctor Syn had left a will leaving everything
to Imogene, Sir Antony stretched a point and kept
matters to himself, for he was afraid that the wealth
would drift to the Crown by law. However, as Leveller
of the Marsh Scotts, he found that it was easy enough
to hush affairs up, for the French war was in everybody's
mind. So eventually Denis married the daughter of the
Incan princess, the adopted daughter of Mrs. Whyllie
of Rye, though Sir Antony could never really prove
her origin, but he would never admit even to himself
that most probably Doctor Syn had been romancing.
The secret of England's treasure died with Clegg, but
whether that was only a lying excuse of the scoundrel
to get away from Dymchurch, the squire could never
make out. Jerry Jerk grew up and became the Maid-
stone hangman, and Dymchurch remained under the
wall. But although Doctor Syn was succeeded by
more righteous vicars, none was so popular as he had
been, and the few Dymchurch men who survived the
French war missed the long extempore prayers on a
Sunday and the dry-as-dust sermons preached by a man
who was a man before he became either a parson or a
scoundrel, for scoundrelism is after all only a point of
view of some community, and Dymchurch folk would
have welcomed back Syn knowing that he was Clegg,
because they all knew him to be a daring, dashing fellow
and a dear old man.
Dymchurch is very quiet again, and the wild adven-
tures of the few days recorded in this book were for-
gotten after Trafalgar, but the Doctor was never for-
gotten by those who knew him, and it would bring tears
to their eyes did anybody chance to sing his quaint old
"Here's to the feet wot have walked the plank;
Yo ho ! for the dead man's throttle.
And here's to the corpses floating round in the tank;
And the dead man's teeth in the bottle.
" For a pound of gunshot tied to his feet,
And a ragged bit of sail for a winding sheet;
Then the signal goes \\Tth a bang and a flash.
And overboard you go with a horrible splash.
"And all that isn't swallowed by the sharks outside,
Stands up again upon its feet upon the running tide;
And it keeps a bowin' gently, and a lookin' with surprise
At each little crab a scramblin' from the sockets of its eyes."
OFF the Malay peninsula lies the island of Penang.
Upon the mountain outside the little town, and
overlooking the sea, stands an ancient Chinese
monastery. Every evening when the dusk hour falls,
and when English sextons go to ring the evensong, an
odd little man throws sacred crackers into the red-hot
stomach of the Chinese God of Plenty. After this office
is performed he repairs to the great pool, where the
sacred turtles live, to enjoy an evening pipe of opium.
And there, as the turtles crawl upon the flat slab rocks
that fringe the pool, he delights his colleagues, the yel-
low priests, with horrific tales of demons and ghosts that
inhabit the old parts of Britain.
All the priests in that far-off temple know of Romney
Marsh by reputation, and they would never go to Eng-
land for fear of it. If a traveller from Kent ever
reached that far-off temple in his journey through the
world he would think it strange and homely to hear
the yellow priests discussing horror tales of Romney
Marsh, but he would understand if he could recog-
nize in the odd little man, dressed in the dirty blue
robe of the yellow race, the Dymchurch sexton, Mr.
What's he doing there, how did he get there, and how
long will he stop there ? Who knows !
Perhaps the ancient fellow has still unfulfilled am-
bitions and dangerous, profitable enterprises tucked
away under that Chinese sleeve. But it is pretty certain
that Dymchurch-under-the-Wall will see him no more.
THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS
GARDEN CITY, N. Y.
BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY
3 9999 05676 979 5